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MITx Initial Logo

MITx is a new online learning platform and offering by MIT. MITx has 4 components:

  1. Interactive online classes. Think OCW but with a focus on quality not quantity.
  2. A certificate for completion for a small fee
  3. An open-source learning platform that makes it easy for anyone to offer online classes
  4. Money for research into the effectiveness of various parts of MITx

I was the undergrad representative on MITCET, the MIT Council of Education Technology, which is one of the groups that helped found MITx. I provided input on the branding and cost of MITx before it was launched to the public.


Comments on MITx

Michael E. Plasmeier ’13 has been the undergraduate representative on MITCET since the beginning of last term. He says that Reif gave the group a presentation on the general goals of MITx on Nov. 28, followed-up by a presentation with more details on Dec. 16 — about two days before the official MITx announcement. After the Nov. 28 meeting, MITCET committee members were asked to provide feedback via a wiki or by emailing the provost.

In addition to meeting with MITCET and the Faculty Policy Committee (both of which have student representation), the provost met with focus groups of graduate and undergraduate students organized by Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80. “They asked all the right questions: will MITx increase the load on our faculty, how will we know who is the person taking the MITx test(s), will MITx weaken the value of an MIT degree, etc.,” said Reif in an email to The Tech.

“From my behind-the-scenes perspective, a lot of faculty were engaged with it, but not in a very public way,” said Allen of the faculty’s role in MITx development. “I think many people felt there was a sense of urgency with regards to making an announcement — I think that urgency was well-founded.”

Plasmeier agreed. “External factors” contributed to the timing of the announcement, he said. “It’s still not very concrete … and there’s still a lot of details to be refined.”

Indeed, other institutions have been pursuing online educational initiatives. Last fall, Stanford University offered three computer science courses online for free (the machine learning course was taught by Andrew Ng SM ’98). Stanford also offers lecture videos for nine additional computer science classes via their OpenClassroom platform, similar to OCW.

Looking ahead, Plasmeier says that he expects MITx to be adopted by faculty on an experimental basis. “We’ll see this slow progression of semester-by-semester, class-by-class, professors will try something out and solicit student feedback on it,” he said.

Professors will determine for themselves whether the new online tools work, Plasmeier added. If data shows that learning outcomes aren’t any better with MITx, instructors could decide to revert back to traditional methods.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of researching new methods to see if there is something better than the standard lecture-based classes,” he added.

-- MIT to build online education platform, The Tech Ethan A. Solomon 1/11/2012

Value of a Certificate

The value of an MITx certificate will be determined by the market (employers and other universities) - not MIT.

It is our hope that MITx is high quality and that others will value the quality of MITx and assign a value to a certificate. However MITx will have to earn that value itself.



  1. MITx will devalue an MIT education, because if other people can complete our courses, they're just as valuable to employers as we are
  2. MITx is virtually worthless, as it is the education, not "the name" that employers value


  1. There will still be plenty of value for traditional MIT grads.
    1. MITx is not a degree program. It is a series of individual classes. There will always be additional value to being on campus.
    2. Being on campus lets you engage with the community of learners in a way that online interactions cannot. There are so many more components of a campus based education that range from the traditional being-on-your-own-growing-up to UROPs (which according to your paper last week 74% of seniors did).
    3. People said they same thing about OCW and undergrad applications have skyrocketed over the last 10 years (mainly due to financial aid availability – but I know of no one who does not want to go to MIT because they are content reading OCW. MITx will be more interactive, but still no substitute.)
  2. Instead, MITx will add value to the people who are looking to take a class here or there – either in HS, another college, or working. It’s a different demographic than current undergrads.
    1. The value of MITx is not determined directly by MIT. It will be determined by the market (employers) based on the quality of the content. The intention is for quality of the materials to be high, and that the bar to a MITx certificate to be as high as passing the class on campus. Employers would have to determine the value of the certificate. MITx will need to prove its value. We will see what happens. The value of a MITx certificate will hopefully be correlated with the difficulty of earning the certificate.