27 April 2012

First MITx Course Has 120,000 Students Worldwide

The first offering — a course dubbed 6.002x, or “Circuits and Electronics” — is running from March 5 through June 8, modeled after one of the introductory courses taught in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).

Some people taking 6.002x are students at other universities who are using the course to supplement their own educations; others are professionals whose long-running interest in the subject has been fired anew by the course. MIT News recently canvassed students from around the world who are enrolled in 6.002x to see what their experience has been like — so far, at any rate. _MIT
MITx offers MIT credit for online courses, for a fee. The fact that its very first course enrolled 120,000 students around the world suggests that the demand for high quality online engineering training is immense -- and likely to grow.
...As the MITx website notes, students hoping to succeed in 6.002x must have taken an advanced physics course in electricity and magnetism, must know basic calculus and linear algebra, and must have experience working on differential equations. There is an optional portion of 6.002x, during the first half of the course, in which students can do remedial work in differential equations.

All told, the expected time commitment for 6.002x is about 10 hours per week. “Students are putting a lot of effort into the course,” Agarwal says. “Some are putting in 20 hours a week.”

For his part, Muñoz Coronel, who is in his eighth semester of studying electrical engineering, calls 6.002x “rigorous academic study.” And Murray Pearson, a software engineer from Montreal, notes that the coursework “strongly encourages students to actively calculate and think and perform the steps, rather than passively browsing information.” _MIT
The demand for such an education is quite large, but not infinite. There is a limit to the number of people who can assimilate this type and level of knowledge -- even from the best teachers and with the most skilled assistance.

But talented engineering students and tinkerers around the world will indeed benefit from MIT's efforts. Remote engineering schools that could not possibly recruit this level of instructional talent, will be able to offer credit to their better students for successful documented completion of MITx courses. Working engineers long out of school will be able to brush up on rusty knowledge or even break into entirely new areas of engineering.

For now, the possibilities are not endless, but they are broad. For young and lifelong learners around the world, "this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

In order for the possibilities to be endless, we will need to perfect ways to make people smarter.

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