MIT "for free"/My online semester

I’ve been slightly MIA lately because of ongoing talk on EMUtalk.org, the new semester (more on that in a bit), other school things, and life in general. But this morning (via the NCTE Inbox column), I came across this article in the Christian Science Monitor, “How to go to M.I.T. for free.” Actually, this isn’t that new, though there are two things that struck me.

First off, this is an interestingly different approach to online education than EMU and most similar kinds of schools. Of course, M.I.T. can afford to give this stuff away because I believe the going rate for tuition per year is a gazillion dollars a year, and because these students don’t really need the online courses or online teaching materials. Which leads to the second thing…

In so many ways, the content is obviously not what an education is about. A big part of it is of course interaction:

A college education is “really the total package of students interacting with other students, forming networks, interacting with faculty, and that whole environment of being associated with the school,” says James Yager, a senior associate dean at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Fair enough. But an education from a place like M.I.T. is also a brand name.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m not trying to dis’ M.I.T. or similarly prestigious schools. But even if someone could work through all of these free online classes and learning tools and stuff and gain “an education,” they still wouldn’t gain a “credential.” And, without paying the gazillions of dollars in tuition, they wouldn’t get the piece of paper.

Of course, some of this is also on my mind because I am literally soaking in online teaching this term. I’m teaching an online version of English 328 (which I’ve taught plenty of times before) and English 516 (which I’ve never taught online).

The second one is the real experiment because it’s the first graduate course we’ve taught online in the writing program, and I think (maybe?) in the entire department. And to be honest, it’s off to a bit of a rocky start. I’m not as prepared as I would prefer, and I think I’m going to have to work at making clear expectations. This isn’t as much of a problem for English 328, I suppose in large part because I’m more prepared for this course, but also because I think more of the students in this class are experienced with the whole online class thing.

Anyway, we’ll see. I realize that online graduate courses aren’t a new thing everywhere, but it’s new for us.

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One Response to MIT "for free"/My online semester

  1. cheryl says:

    When you say you’re off to a ‘rocky start’ what do you mean? Are students not as savvy about taking 516 online as you expected? Does the framework of the class need tweaking? I ask becasue I’m thinking more and more about trying an online course (not in any near future) so any info would help as I ponder doing this.

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