Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has made an exciting announcement for the technology industry in the US and elsewhere by confirming that it is set to launch its first free course which can be studied and assessed exclusively online.
Beginning in March 2012, MIT explained that the course will be the first prototype of an online project and is to be known as MITx. It will offer a fully automated learning experience, according to the world-leading university, which has claimed that it intends to "shatter barriers to education".
Although consumer electronic products and the internet are both playing an increasingly prominent role in our lives, this influence has yet to really extend itself into the sphere of education. There are, of course, online degree courses already available at MIT. But through the ambitious, innovative new approach, the university hopes to completely remove geographical boundaries, meaning students will be able to take the course from anywhere in the world.
A university spokesman said that the course 6.002x: Circuits and Electronics, which is inspired by the campus-based course of the same name, is not merely a "watered-down" approach to the more conventional subject. Indeed, he insisted that the new course is equally as intense and intellectually testing.
According to Anant Agarwal, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the course has been designed in a way that will "keep it engaging". "There are interactive exercises to see if they've understood," the Professor explained.
MIT's provost, Rafael Reif, explained that the course is being seen as a litmus test for the concept of harmonizing education and technology, and seeing just how far the boundaries could be pushed. Some material, the Professor conceded, is best being taught face-to-face. "It's quite possible that employers will want to find out about the courses we offer," he added.
Apple, meanwhile, recently announced that it hopes to play a more extensive role in the education sector in the US. Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice-President of World-Wide Marketing, announced plans to sell digital textbooks at an event staged in New York and suggested that such technologies could help to revolutionize classroom teaching. It remains to be seen, though, just how much of an influence technological development will have on the education sector.