MIT online course offers bright future for remote learning

Following the launch of MIT’s online education course, students have praised the innovative approach at the head of a revolution in remote learning.

The free MITx course offers students across the world the chance to access courses through the US university’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).   

The first course is called “Circuits and Electronics”, also referred to as 6.002x, and received a wave of popularity upon its launch in March.  Registrations for the course soared after the announcement with 120,000 signing up.

The course runs until 8 June, but MIT has started providing feedback from some of its enrolled students.

As can be seen here the course has been very well received, and it offers a glance at the potential future of further education, or indeed at any level.   

While it will not land you a full MIT degree, the course is of a very high standard according to students, and it is highly interactive – meaning that feeling involved is not a problem.   

With further education becoming more prohibitive with rising fees, at least in the UK,  the fact that it is free is no doubt attractive to those looking into learning more.

TechEye spoke to one of the students on the flagship course, who said that despite it being online, it feels remarkably inclusive.

“It is really well put together,” said Richard Day, who has just finished his mid-terms on the 6.002x. “It feels like it is one on one, it feels quite personal.” 

“You are doing it PowerPoint but live, so he is annotating his slides ‘live’.  It is not just like filming a lecture, it feels more personal like the [the lecturer] is talking to you. You can’t do it all off of the lectures, you have to read textbooks, but they are given to you online, you don’t have to buy them,” he said.

Most useful, though, is the discussion forum.  “It is like having a classroom,” Day said. “You are allowed to discuss the topics, not the answers, but how to do the homework.  It is done really well.”

Day, who is already educated to degree level, said that the course is suitably tough, and though he has received high grades, it has been a struggle to meet the high standards.

“I thought it wouldn’t be too hard, but you realise within the first week or too.  It is quite a high level. I have really had to learn a lot of maths again,” he said.

The initial figure of 120,000 registered students is likely to have dwindled substantially, due to a combination of course difficulty and, more so, the fact that no payment is required to start.  

There are teething problems too.  The homework function can be problematic in that answers are marked by a computer.

For example, sometimes students are given a ‘tolerance’ on either side of a correct.  But when asked to approximate an answer it is not always possible to be within a tiny threshold.   This is “sort of a flaw with computer marking”.

However, this is a minor gripe, and on the whole the course works well, according to Day, with little other problems. 

Overall, he said that generally the course is very well received, and that remote learning should gain in popularity in future.

“You feel really included,” he said. “It is really good teaching.  It is like a real person, not just a computer.”