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MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT In Focus

Leading a Learning Revolution

MITx and edX rewrite the rules of online education,
across the world and in MIT classrooms

Powerful new online learning tools are rapidly evolving from resource to revolution, and they’re bringing higher education its “most profound technological transformation in more than 500 years,” declared MIT President L. Rafael Reif in his fall 2012 inaugural address.

Through its experimental MITx online courses, the Institute is helping to guide this transformation by making rapid advances in online education both in and out of classrooms. “We have an obligation to creatively exploit the power of these new technologies to make education more affordable, more accessible, and more effective,” Reif explains.

In spring semester 2012, a prototype MITx course, 6.002x (Introduction to Circuits and Electronics), was delivered free worldwide, and a partly online, partly in-person version of the course was tested experimentally by regular MIT students.

The pioneering MITx course drew almost 155,000 registrants, and more than 7,000 persevered through its rigorous requirements to pass a final online exam. Just as strikingly, MIT students taking the blended classroom/online version of the course liked the instant feedback and the ability to work at their own pace online.

In May 2012, MIT and Harvard University jointly launched edX, a not-for-profit organization that is building on the MITx software to create an online learning platform shared with other educational institutions.

Nine edX courses from MIT, Harvard, and the University of California at Berkeley debuted worldwide in fall 2012. As other schools sign on, dozens more edX courses will be released in 2013.

Additionally, the quickly developing open-source edX software platform is bolstering ways to assess learning automatically, to help students collaborate online, and to present virtual labs and game-like learning components. Given the enormous student populations it serves and its ability to track their online learning behavior, the edX platform also provides a unique resource for learning about learning itself—helping to spur advances that can flow back into course improvements.

Like MIT’s pioneering OpenCourseWare, which was launched in 2001 and presents material from virtually all MIT courses to about a million online visitors monthly, MITx and edX reflect the Institute’s steady determination to share its knowledge globally.

At the same time, President Reif emphasizes, the Institute will “explore ways in which these new technologies might make on-campus, in-person education even better—better at helping students develop their potential, magnify their creativity, extend their networks, and achieve their dreams.”