MITx Buzz: What Students Should Know

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Open signThe internet’s been abuzz with news of MITx, hailed as an exciting chapter in the Open Educational Resources movement. Students, if you’re not too familiar with online learning and the free resources available to you even if you haven’t enrolled in a class, you may find it interesting to read on.

First, there were MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s) hugely popular OpenCourseWare materials, which, according to their website, have been used by over 100 million people in the last 10 years. MIT OCW offers a wealth of learning materials in subjects across the curriculum, and for all DIY learners, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects, this is a treasure. High school students and teachers, by the way, might find particularly useful the OCW Highlights for High School.

The new MITx differs from OCW in that it will offer actual classes for completion. Unlike classes that count toward a degree, these classes will require neither cost nor prerequisites. They will, however, offer students the option of obtaining credentials (for a fee) upon proving mastery in the subjects.

Certainly, these online offerings are exciting learning opportunities no matter what; to quote Benjamin Franklin, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him.” While it remains to be seen how employers and other universities might accept such credentials, MITx will be fun to watch.

Image via mrg. bz / kevinrosseel

Further reading
“MIT Mints a Valuable New Form of Academic Currency,” Commentary by Kevin Carey, The Chronicle of Higher Education.
“MIT Will Offer Certificates to Outside Students Who Take Its Online Courses,”
Marc Parry, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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How to Succeed in Your Online Class: 8 Tried & True Tips


Online Learning

Online learning continues to expand throughout higher education, and if you’re a prospective college student, chances are good that you will complete an online class yourself in the future. You may take a class entirely online or enroll in one of the “hybrid” variety (in which you’ll complete some work online, but also have face-to-face meetings).

I’ve seen firsthand that a well-designed online course with a knowledgeable and skilled professor offers an excellent learning opportunity. Within these classes, the self-motivated and organized student can excel. . . IF that student understands the differences and unique challenges online learning presents:

The online classroom has its advantages (flexibility and convenience), but its coursework is not easier, and it does take some getting used to. Read on for eight basic nuggets of advice.

1. Make it a MUST: complete your school’s online orientation session, module, or questionnaire. Colleges often offer a highly recommended (if not mandatory) orientation session in which students are asked questions and/or presented with some valuable lessons about online learning. This kind of session will be well worth your time.

2. Be aware of your time commitments and budget your time accordingly! The typical 3-credit-hour online class will take you at least 10 hours a week to complete successfully. See here for more on time management in college.

3. Once in the online classroom, immediately print out the schedule / calendar / list of assignments due. Tack it to your office wall or file it in a prominent place in your binder. Don’t let out of sight be out of mind.

4. Get organized: even though the class is online, you should keep a physical binder with a course calendar and list of assignments due, plus the syllabus and any important notes. Carefully organize all this, perhaps by week, and perhaps with color-coded tabs. Such organization will help you to keep track of class requirements even when you’re offline, and in case of computer failure (it happens!).

5. Make it a habit: log in to class at least once every weekday in order to check for new class messages, announcements, and any community activity (such as within a discussion board).

6. Read everything very carefully. This may be online profs’ biggest complaint about some of their online students: “they don’t read!” Don’t be one of those students. Read well — particularly the lecture notes and the professors’ emails, announcements, and comments on your work. Don’t overlook any extra study aids, such as web links within the class, in addition to the textbook’s website if you have one.

7. Ask questions when you have them. First, check to see if your class has an FAQ section. If your question isn’t there, a community “student café” message board is often ideal for procedural or even course content questions, but don’t be afraid to send your prof a message directly, either.

8. Finally, do not procrastinate! Over and over again, I see experienced online students tell the newbies that procrastination is the online student’s worst enemy.

In short, remember your commitment and consistent effort in the online classroom will determine your degree of learning. E-learning’s an exciting world, so if you decide to jump in, welcome and good luck!

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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