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Education

Get a Free MIT Education 251

dhollm writes "Well, at least the course materials will be online, for free, for all. The article gives a brief description of the program (evidently costing MIT $100M over 10 years) and the key drivers behind it. So start reading up!"
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Get a Free MIT Education

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  • Where was this when I went to college?

    I had to settle for CUNY instead.
  • Old News (Score:3, Funny)

    by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:02AM (#2410586)
    This was annouced about a year ago.
    • Re:Old News (Score:1, Interesting)

      by saridder ( 103936 )
      Yes it was. And it's no big deal. It's just the course outline, not the education, not the interaction between the student and profesor, not the heated lively debates, which is what constitutes good education.
      • When I was a student , only 2 things impeded my progression :

        1 - Getting there on time (late riser / late Quake player, pick your choice 8)

        2 - Finding the course I missed from a friend, or fiend, or anybody who got it, AND/OR reading this filthy writing (mostly mine 8)

        Now I don't know about you, but... this would have been a life saver ..

      • Re:Old News (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Heated and lively debates?!? You've never been an MIT student have you?
    • Re:Old News (Score:2, Informative)

      by jeff67 ( 318942 )
      http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/04/04/114122 8
  • Ballsy Move (Score:2, Interesting)

    by baronben ( 322394 )
    becuse they are saying that its not the meterials that you are shelling out many K's for, its the teachers who explain it. A few other schools have been doing this for a while, St. Thomas Aquanis school (though I could be wrong, but I know a school like this exists) has had their entire 4 year ciriculam based on the Birtainca Great Book Series for a while. Any one can pick up a set for about 200$, but the other 28,800$ a year is for the teachers to explain it.
    I supose this would be interesting if I'm interested in a certen subject and want a bibliogaphy or some slids on it, but only an idot would try to get a real education by only reading the course meterial
    • Re:Ballsy Move (Score:2, Insightful)

      by shepd ( 155729 )
      >but only an idot would try to get a real education by only reading the course meterial

      There was (and all too often, still is) the time that the only way to be informed was to teach it to yourself. I know that because that's how I learned computers! I was the only person on my block (actually, within most of the school) for over a decade that could do anything with a computer. 100% self taught from books. Now I help others use computers.

      The problem with learning by being taught is that you only learn what the teacher has to tell you. And unless your teach has a photographic memory, that means you end up with less of an education. I always tell anyone I help who wants to fully comprehend the subject to read books on it. I make mistakes even when I teach people how to do things. I don't think that makes me a bad teacher -- I think it just proves I'm still learning how to do my job.

      I believe a "real" education comes neither by rote, nor by hearing example cited. It comes from trying, doing, and being. You lean the "real" answer by correcting your mistakes. If you don't make mistakes, you aren't learning difficult enough subject matter.

      Just my two cents.
  • by oldzoot ( 60984 ) <morton,james&comcast,net> on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:08AM (#2410621)
    It is wonderful that a motivated person could actually learn high-quality usefull stuff ( I assume ), but will it count with any potential employers ? It is very difficult to break through the "paper culture" which exists to support the requirement of expen$ive educations. No matter how clever one might be - as demonstrated by actual past performance, there is always that suspicion of anyone undocumented as a fraud.

    • by Drakula ( 222725 )
      I think you are right. Without the paper it is not equivalent. However, it is a great advantage for those who just want to supplement their existing knowledge or those who are trying to keep up with new developments in a given field. I think its great for that.

      I still think employers would look upon this in a positive way. I know people who graduate putting all kinds of crap on the resume that they never really did or don't really know anything about. I guess they don't get called on it much because I haven't heard many horror stories.

      Just my 2 cents.
    • by cheesyfru ( 99893 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:24AM (#2410731) Homepage
      Of course it counts. Some employers actually care about what an employee knows, not what a piece of paper says they know. There are plenty of people out there who are motivated to continue their education after they've entered the real world, but who don't have the (time|money) to devote to a school like MIT. As one who spends many hours at Barnes & Noble reading tons of computer books in my spare time, I certainly welcome the opportunity to get more free education!
    • Of course not! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by scribblej ( 195445 )
      Of course it doesn't "count." That's the whole point MIT is making -- just reading the course material is NOT an education, and it's a world different than actually being in class.


      If it WERE the same thing, then putting this information out there would instantly put MIT out of business.

    • by dustpuppy ( 5260 )
      Assuming that you read the material and, most importantly, actually understand it and can utilise the knowledge, then I don't see why it can't count.

      When I interview people, I certainly look to see if they have a degree, but frankly, as long as they have the right attitude (the dominating factor really), and can answer the majority of my technical questions, then they have an excellent chance of getting employed.

      If reading the online material from MIT lets you answer my technical questions, well then that's good enough for me.
    • Even if you don't get a degree, it would still teach you, and you could take some sort of an exam or something in the future... still worth the time.

      Besides, it's all about the free passage of knowledge, right?

      Well, it should be! :)
    • as demonstrated by actual past performance, there is always that suspicion of anyone undocumented as a fraud.

      Well, there always is the Degree in Photoshop. Commit fraud to prevent being called fruadulant, now thats a great Catch-22.

    • doesn't matter (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sahala ( 105682 )
      It doesn't matter whether this stuff counts toward a degree or not. What matters more is that it's out there and public.

      Students at other universities worldwide can use it as an additional reference. Those of us (sniff sniff) who have graduated and are working can look up that algorithm or data structure that we don't quite remember accurately (probably because of the hangover from the night before).

      Not that I can throw away all my textbooks, but this is pretty sweet.

      Oh, and as for job eligibility, again it's not about the degree...everyone that can afford to go to college should, just because of the enriching atmosphere and the chance to meet smart girls^H^H^H^H^H people.

    • As others have pointed out, while you still may be required to have a degree to be considered, having that extra bit of education can only help things in the job market (unless you are declared "over-qualified").

      Take two people, who graduated from the same program a year apart and have relatively similar work experiences. Suppose one can talk intelligently about a subject that does not show up on his transcript, and explains that he was motivated enough to learn it on the web from MIT. The other is unable. Who do you think looks better to the company?

      In addition, the web page also mentions that this is a good reference for other colleges and universities. Want to know how MIT teaches a difficult concept? Just look itup on the web.

      I applaud MIT's effort; this is truly a move that can only help mankind.
    • There is something that a lot of people are neglecting. Having a bachelor's degree is not just about what you have learned. Think about it, many jobs in the real world will spend weeks or more teaching you how to do the job well after you are hired.

      Getting through college and having that diploma is also a statement about your ability to get through college. It speaks to time management, ability under pressure, ability to interact with others, etc. In addition to saying something about what you know, that piece of paper tells potential employers that you have the determination to be dedicated to the long hall and aren't just some flaky high school kid.

      Getting an MIT education online would be an impressive feat, but there are still other questions. Without grades did you cut corners on your studies? Are you doing it to avoid social interaction? Did you learn to manage long term projects and research?

      Clever knowledge isn't the only skill that counts in this world.
  • cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by austad ( 22163 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:10AM (#2410627) Homepage
    Actually, it may be interesting to find out how many "prominent" intellectuals over the next 10 years gather much of their knowledge from this instead of actually going to school.

    Many of the smart people I know found school was not for them and ended up learning what they know on their own. Also, that 12 year old prodigy down the block may not have $100 or more for college level coursebooks, but he sure has internet access...
  • Get a Free MIT Education!!!!

    j/k... :)
  • by N8F8 ( 4562 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:13AM (#2410651)
    MIT OpenCourseWare [mit.edu]. I love to learn and if this pans out it could be a real boon to self educated people around the world!
  • OpenCourseware [mit.edu] from MIT's Web site. They've got a mailing list, a link to the press release, and some other information.

    I like it... I can't wait for the Linguistics curriculum to go up.

    --brian

  • would be truly free education for everyone... using these means, we could cut down on things like "university campuses", etc. for professions that don't require actual lab environments... cutting costs to the point where government can fund teachers that design and update coursework, providing it freely to the public. (education and defense are about the only things government should be involved in anyway.. ok, tack on justice system... fine...)
    • Re:Next Step (Score:3, Interesting)

      If you read the article you will find that the MIT professors that came up with this disagree with you.

      MIT is careful to point out that the OpenCourseWare project is not a distance-learning initiative. Indeed, according to Hal Abelson, a professor of computer science and engineering who served on the committee that developed the idea, OpenCourseWare represents a repudiation of distance learning. "It's a large effort at MIT that says, 'We're not going to do distance education,'" says Abelson. "It really is making a statement about what the university is about and what it's not about."

      Also, the government isn't paying for this, since MIT is private.

      I am amazed that you think that professions that don't need lab environments don't need campus based training. Would you want to pursue a history/English/law/religion degree without spending actual classroom time with your teacher and fellow students?

      I took advantage of the fact that for many of the university courses I took were on-line. Not only were all the course materials on-line, but the lectures were too. So I would often sleep in and then catch class on my Mac Performa while eating lunch. Guess what? I really regret doing that. I wish I could go back and kick myself in the head and make myself go to class. I did fine in my classes but I missed out on lots of interaction, and the ability to ask a question in lecture.

      Besides, Prof. Nick Parlante would always wear plaid to screw with the video compression. :)

      • Distance learning (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mvw ( 2916 )
        I took advantage of the fact that for many of the university courses I took were on-line. Not only were all the course materials on-line, but the lectures were too. So I would often sleep in and then catch class on my Mac Performa while eating lunch. Guess what? I really regret doing that. I wish I could go back and kick myself in the head and make myself go to class. I did fine in my classes but I missed out on lots of interaction, and the ability to ask a question in lecture.

        This is because the american university system is closer to school. The German system is to have the professor go to the board or slide projector and to give his performance for 90 minutes. This is usually an one man show, with very few questions from the audience. School is IMHO, wenn the professor cares about the individual progress of the students and asks them questions etc.

        The places where you learn are the small exercise groups and in contact with other students.

        Today I study computer science next to my job at a distance university and wish I had the same material when I studied physics at a traditional university. That stuff is better and it saves you time, except you are one of those few persons who are actually able to learn at the speed the professor gives his talk (I'm not, I need usually twice the time :-)

        I am amazed that you think that professions that don't need lab environments don't need campus based training. Would you want to pursue a history/English/law/religion degree without spending actual classroom time with your teacher and fellow students?

        Well I signed up for the hardware lab this year and it is done this way: They send you a complete computer with interfaces, software etc home and you have 8x2 weeks time to get used to it and do homework with it. Later, if you solved the assignments, you have to go to one the locations where they offer examination and write a test. If you pass you are allwed to do a one week full time lab at the university location.

        The funny thing that you meet your peer students personally just at the examinations or these labs in person, otherwise e-mail, news or irc is the means for contact, or individual arranged meetings among the students that live not too far away.

        Regards, Marc

        • Marc,

          I understand your point and I have certainly learned a great deal using distance learning methods. My regrets stem from my perception that the best aspects of the university experience are student to student interactions and student to teacher interactions.

          The interactions I had with other students were the most valuable part of my university education. Not only will I enjoy those friendships for the rest of my life, but the contacts that I made will be of use to me professionally as well. Just having a degree from such-and-such university is less than half of what makes my education worth the amount of money I paid for it. Yes my degree says that I have some level of CS proficiency, but the people that I know now are even more valuable to me.

          For me as much of my learning came in the dorm as in the classroom. I was able to ask people for help and also able to give help nearly any hour of the day. I am not saying that this cannot happen in a distance learning enviroment, but for me it seems much more difficult.

          • My regrets stem from my perception that the best aspects of the university experience are student to student interactions and student to teacher interactions.

            I agree with you. What I wanted to add was that at least in the German university system teacher-student interaction is quite poor (the first time probably when you have to prepare a seminar treatise or perhaps even at the time you prepare a thesis, but not at class time) so that this makes no big difference between presence and distance education.

            Student-student interaction is important, that is why the distance university has tutoring centers in the bigger cities that serve a whole region around them, where people can get mentoring. The intenet of course has been very helpful too.

            I don't argue for distance learning in general, but because many people have to spend time for jobbing at the same time they study, distance learning methods (as a means to learn at flexible times and locations) combined with traditional student meeting points are very helpful.

            Regards, Marc

      • I took advantage of the fact that for many of the university courses I took were on-line. Not only were all the course materials on-line, but the lectures were too. So I would often sleep in and then catch class on my Mac Performa while eating lunch. Guess what? I really regret doing that. I wish I could go back and kick myself in the head and make myself go to class. I did fine in my classes but I missed out on lots of interaction, and the ability to ask a question in lecture.

        Reading this I am really glad they DIDN'T have distance learning when I was in college 10 years ago. Time spent in class, taking notes, hearing the prof. speek live, asking questions, and so on is so much better than the Memorex version - and yet I can easily imagine being "busy" or distracted enough that I might have chosen the latter.

        MIT is doing the right thing to put its course material on line while maintaining the requirement to actually show up. If I were an alum (I'm not) I might kick in some bux for this project. (Not $100M though.)

  • by westfirst ( 222247 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:15AM (#2410672)
    This is a nice effort, but I don't know where they come up with the $100 million price tag. Most of the work is already done by professors who want to save themselves the hassle of making sure students get all of the handouts, problem sets, answers, etc. MIT doesn't block access to that stuff now and I guess they won't in the future.
    My guess is the $100 million figure was dreamed up to shake some cash out of alumni. They're probably hoping that someone will come forward and endow the effort. Perhaps they're targeting Michael Saylor, the MIT graduate who once talked about starting a free university with the cash he was making from MicroStrategy. The dot bomb crash has slowed that dream and perhaps MIT's as well.
    Of course, I don't mean to denigrate the entire idea. It just seems like they're taking credit for something they already do. Did I mention that each week, I take out the trash? That's keeping the world cleaner! Call me Mr. Environmentalist!
    • by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:30AM (#2410783) Journal
      Of course, I don't mean to denigrate the entire idea. It just seems like they're taking credit for something they already do. Did I mention that each week, I take out the trash? That's keeping the world cleaner! Call me Mr. Environmentalist!

      Well then, you've successfully learned the first computer science lesson now taught by MIT: Garbage In, Garbage Out.
    • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:41AM (#2410843)
      MIT is about to create a huge web repository that will easily rival Yahoo and MSN in its engineering needs. Almost all of the web pages will have to be redone to create a uniform look, feel and functionality. Outside of that there will have to be mechanisms in place for new material to be published in an efficient manner. Factor in server costs, database licenses, and the biggest cost - labor - and you can easily get into large dollar amounts.

      Its not just about setting up a web site - its the cost of migrating the practices of an entire institution around a new model of information dispersal. This will definitely erode the value of journals as graduate work starts filtering in to the system.

      MIT may even be attempting somehting more daunting by trying to productize the process to be sold to other institutions, I'm not sure, but that would raise costs even higher.

      • You miss the biggest cost... storage and availability of data.

        We are talking in the 100's of GB, if not TB's. When you use that many spindles, you are going to statistically suffer spindle failure on the rate of 1 every week or two. That rate will increase as your spindle count increases.

        You will have to go RAID-5 or mirror. As this will most likely be read intensive, RAID-5 would be an economical way to protect this data while improving read performance.

        Availability is going to be another factor here. Think clustering, as it wouldn't do to have MIT's OpenCourseWare offline.

        This costs money. Depending on their projected usage you can easily get upwards of $100M in cost. Remember this is a 10yr cost, so think total cost of ownsership (infrastructure, personnel costs, maintenance, etc.).

      • It's MIT for crying out loud. I don't think they are going to have to look far for engineers ;) The biggest problem will be getting professors to type up their course notes. If they had the bandwith they could just tape lecures, but I don't think 3rd world net users would prefer that format. Audio sucks because you can't pass it through Babelfish.
  • I'm finishing my degree from the University of Maryland right now, and I see this as a great potential for supplemental information for my coursework. I take a large majority of my classes over the Web so I can work full-time in addition to taking 12-15 credits a semester. Despite the extreme convience of taking my courses on-line, I feel as though I don't recieve as comprehensive instruction as I did in the classroom. These course materials, while certainly not identical, could certainly provide me with another point of view, and quite possibly giving me a better grasp of the material.
  • Oh no! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:20AM (#2410711)
    This screws up one of the best scenes in Good Will Hunting!!


    WILL
    The sad thing is, in about 50 years
    you might start doin' some thinkin' on
    your own and by then you'll realize
    there are only two certainties in life.

    CLARK
    Yeah? What're those?

    WILL
    One, don't do that. Two-- you dropped
    a hundred and fifty grand on an
    education you coulda' picked up for a
    dollar fifty in late charges at the
    Public Library.



    I look for a reissue of the DVD "Updated for new technology" anytime now.
  • by redhog ( 15207 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:21AM (#2410715) Homepage
    cause here in Europe (at least in my country, which is Sweden), you don't have to pay for education. You pay for books (or lend them frome someone), and you pay for your apt and food, but not for your education as such. And there's a student loan with kinda nice repay-plan (at least partly based on your income) you can get for paying your rent and food. You don't need to be rich, only smart, to get a good education...
    • cause here in Europe (at least in my country, which is Sweden), you don't have to pay for education. You pay for books (or lend them frome someone), and you pay for your apt and food, but not for your education as such.

      No such thing as a "free education", or free healthcare for that matter. It's all paid for through taxation. Which simply means that those who don't study have no option but to subsidize those who do.

      It's all about control. Will the Swedish government (taxpayer) pay for your education at a university that isn't an "approved" part of their system? Of course not... but your 4 years of tuition fees in the US will get you the best education money can buy, anywhere in the world.

      When you graduate, you pay the taxes, and you lose control over your future. I mean that quite literally, for example the state-run pension systems throughout Europe are heading for bankruptcy [socialsecurity.org].

      European governments are living on borrowed time, just as the dotcom firms were during the bubble, spending money freely without thinking of the future. I will make very sure to move my assets out of Europe and into a "free" (as in speech, not as in beer) economy before the EU governments realise that their vote-winning health, education and pension schemes, or should I say scams, are actually built on sand.

      At that time, the American system of "pay for what you actually use" will be proved to be the only sustainable model.
      • What the hell do you mean, "troll"? You might not agree with it, but that doesn't mean it isn't a valid perspective.

      • No such thing as a "free education", or free healthcare for that matter. It's all paid for through taxation.

        Correct. Many of us do not believe this to be a bad thing, since a reasonable, progressive taxation system results in the rich subsidising the poor. Whilst this isn't the American way, we Europeans kind of dig its naive

        Which simply means that those who don't study have no option but to subsidize those who do.

        Not necessarily. What it should mean (modulo tax cuts for the rich, and the myth of trickle-down economics) is that this generation of students are subsidised by the previous generation of students, since they're now earning more than their "non-graduate" contemporaries. In fact, the UK govt. has just proposed a "graduate tax" for exactly this purpose.

        (Oh, and Cato Institute reports attacking government spending are not exactly impartial sources)
        • Reasonable? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Loundry ( 4143 )
          Correct. Many of us do not believe this to be a bad thing, since a reasonable, progressive taxation system results in the rich subsidising the poor.

          "Reasonable"? Reasonable to whom? I assume it's reasonable to the "poor" you mention since they get to plunder the coffers of the "rich." How reasonable is it that the harder you work, the more you are penalized?

          Not necessarily. What it should mean (modulo tax cuts for the rich, and the myth of trickle-down economics) is that this generation of students are subsidised by the previous generation of students, since they're now earning more than their "non-graduate" contemporaries.

          Many students here take out loans to finance their education, and then pay back the loan when they graduate and get a job. This way, students are responsible for their own education, which is the way it should be.

          Oh, and Cato Institute reports attacking government spending are not exactly impartial sources

          And Tom Daschle isn't impartial, either. So what? You'd expect a person who is arguing their position to be partial to that position, wouldn't you? Impartiality is not important in this regard. What is important is whether or not the facts stated by the Cato institute are true, and wheter or not the reason they employ is valid. I notice that you chose to assail neither of those things.

          • Many students here take out loans to finance their education, and then pay back the loan when they graduate and get a job.

            If their credit is good. Like it or not, many people from working class backgrounds have trouble getting sufficient loans to cover both tuition and subsistence, which means they either have to work a job as well as studying, or give up. Either way, they're seriously disadvantaged w.r.t. the independently wealthy. Call me a socialist if you must, but I think I high quality education should be available to everyone with the smarts to use it.

            (NB: Most of my experience re: student finance is limited to the UK.)


            which is the way it should be.

            Which is the way you think it should be.
      • I modded your post to insightful after i saw somebody set it to "troll", because it makes me mad when i see moderators injecting their own politics into their mods.

        But your garden-variety libertarian logic is flawed: the social security dilemma facing western europe and the US has really nothing to do with subsidized education, and everything to do with an aging work force. Read _Generational Accounting_ by lan J. Auerbach and Laurence J. Kotlikoff if you don't believe me.

        And while I'm at it, leaving education to the private sector only makes sense if you believe there are NO external societal benefits to be gained from having an educated populace.

        But if society benefits by educating its members, ie people commit less crime and practice healthier lifestyles, then the government has a perfectly logical reason to subsidize education. The market system will fail to provide the pareto optimal level.

        Your move.
        • Your flawed logic (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Loundry ( 4143 )
          Acutally, it is your logic that is flawed.

          But if society benefits by educating its members,

          The main flaw in this argument is that the "what's good for society" is *highly* subjective. Many people argue that the War on (Some) Drugs is "good for society," when there is a huge, massive pile of evidence that it does much more harm to individuals than it does good.

          Who defines what is "good for society"? I claim that "that which is good for society" and "that which is moral" are almost exactly equivalent. The difference lies in that the former implies groupthink while the latter implies individual thought. And "moral" is also a highly subjective definition.
      • The education system in America is so crappy that it's necessary to import foreigners from ineffective "socialist" countries just to keep the infrastructure from falling apart. The engineers/scientists are mostly second generation Americans or foreigners. Upper echelon natives become lawyers, bankers, or PHBs. Lower echelon Americans become [???] but not engineers. Somehow India and Russia can afford to churn out 100000s of competent engineers a year, but America is too efficient to do that. It's more efficient to let those silly socialists have state subsidised college education. That way the US can keep corporation taxes low, but make sure there are enough techs to keep things running. It's great - the owners get very rich. It leaves ordinary Americans on the slag heap, but who cares about that.
    • How much do you pay in income tax? Mine's in the neighborhood of 30%.
  • There's a few people in here who will need to first take remedial English lessons.
  • by Jish ( 80046 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:24AM (#2410741)
    As many of you realize this was mentioned before on slashdot. I found the old story (which was not so easy cause searching under slashdot's "older stuff" doesn't return any results for MIT???)

    Anyway:

    The other story [slashdot.org]

    Check out some of the information/comments from that...

    -- Josh

    • Yesterday, I came across a link [colorado.edu] somewhere on here to a really nice intro to physics site on colorado.edu's webserver. I spent most of the day going through it, as it has some really good interactive java applications to demonstrate principles of physics.

      I just figured I'd point people to this as I found it to be quite entertaining and educational (and somewhat relevant to this topic). I really hope they continue develompent on it (although some of the java applets have copyright 1997 on them).

  • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:31AM (#2410784) Homepage Journal
    The MIT initiative is a very positive thing, and is a refreshing response to the commercialism that has pervaded technical and scientific institutions for that last couple of decades.

    But really, they're just formalising and advertising a process that is already well under way. Online course materials are already an important web resource. When I need to teach myself some algorithmic trick, I no longer search for some hard-to-find, hard-to-browse, hard-to-read textbook. I go to Google. If I choose my keywords properly, I'm sure to find somebody's carefully written, example-laden lecture notes, aimed at all the thick-headed freshmen who forgot to come to class.

    God, I love the web. For all its flaws, it's an indispensible resource. I know I used to do technical research without it, but I'm damned if I can remember how.

    • Yes you may be able to find the information you need on Google, but this will almost always be data in isolation. MIT will leverage the fact that all of the data is contained within one logical system in order to enhance cross referencing, indexing, searching and metadata generation. Done correctly it will be a truly cohesive, intelligent library. I contend that we have only scaped the surface of what can be achieved with the web in terms of information management and I suspect the MIT project is also interested in advacning the state of the art.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:33AM (#2410797)
    This program will not be all that useful in the long run to end-users. At MIT, I have learned very little from the course material. Most of the learning comes from being exposed to the really cool professors and the other self-motivated learners on campus.

    This is not to say that the program will be useless; the people who really benefit are professors at other institutions who are looking for innovative approaches to college level education. Because this is the primary benefit to a program like this, it will in no way replace an MIT education with a self-taught system.

    (at lael (dot mit edu))
    MIT Mechanical Engineering '03
    • Obviously there will always be great value in being on campus and mingling in the throngs of students and staff. Consider your experience at MIT to be the "premium" version of the MIT product.

      for people who cannot afford the premium version, or who somehow missed out on college for various reasons, this is a great boon to them without diminishing your experience.

  • Linkrot!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by webword ( 82711 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:39AM (#2410828) Homepage
    The link to the article on degree.net [degree.net] really sucks. Why? Linkrot [pcwebopedia.com]. When people try to get to this information in the future, it probably won't be there because other news will come along to replace it.

    The solution is to put the information on both the "news" page and the archive. That is something all web sites posting news should do. The user should then be responsible for finding the news article in the archive, as an individual page, so that it will last when people go back at a later time.

    While degree.net does not have the MIT degree news in their archive [degree.net] right now, I hope they place it there soon. Better still would be an indvidual page dedicated to the MIT degree news, so that it could be directly linked, rather than using the news page or the archive.

    Linkrot sucks. Understand what it is, and understand how to prevent it. If you are a webmaster or publisher, make it easy to find information and set up permanent URLs. To do otherwise is poor practice. And users, look for permanent URLs. Use them when you find them. Try to prevent spreading linkrot.

    Thanks.
  • Try this out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Laplace ( 143876 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:39AM (#2410833)
    Pick a subject that you are interested in. Something like a foreign language, art history, anthropology, topology, operating system design; anything that you are interested in but don't know much about. Get a good textbook on the subject. Commit to reading the text, working the examples, and solving the exercises in it.

    How long would you last in doing that? When would you lose interest? When would other, more pressing issues, take priority and push your self study aside?

    Having all of the courses on line is a nice idea. However, without the pressure of deadlines, grades, and competition, most people would have a hard time following such self study through to completion.

    • And not just once, but twice.

      I went to a Canadian Military College (a loose analogue of West Point) Studied Computer Science (Systems)

      The first:

      Along the way, I took a course in Military and Strategic Studies, and discovered, belatedly, that that was where my true interests lay. I've since made it a point to read every single book on the MilStud required reading list, plus a large number of the other books written by the authors of those books, plus books written by the professors.

      I've also toured some battlefields (seeing the actual ground reveals much the books don't) and have the experience of over 10 years of military service that I can apply to my readings.

      I'd lay money that I could pass the 4th year MilStud final exams.

      The Second:

      After I retired from the Army, I took up building and driving race cars. Shortly thereafter, I took up a self-study of Automotive Engineering, through a mixture of buying textbooks, completing the exercises, and then hands-on applying the concepts to my own race car.

      You want obscure formulae? Try reading Miliken!
      (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1560915269 /thedsmautocropag/107-8499798-0210907)

      I had a step up here, as there's a lot of crossover at the 101 level courses of physics and math between engineering and computer science, but I'd bet that I could hold my own at Batchlor-level engineering exams.

      If there's an interest in the subject, and you're willing to get your hands dirty, you can learn a hell of a lot on your own.

  • Just the other night I was looking to signup for some online courses. I'm one of those people that had been programming since the age of 12 and just jumped right into the industry after high school. I'm glad to be here, but now I'm getting bored with computer science which is fairly simple. The more advanced sciences seem pretty interesting to me right now, such as physics and chemistry and even some mathematical theory.

    MIT's OpenCourseWare sounds great for me, since I'm looking to learn the information, I don't care about the degree. However, their new system won't be online for several months or longer. Are there any good sites out there that provide good online resources for learning the topics I've mentioned? Pay sites are fine. Please don't say SmartPlanet or About.com
    • http://alliance.franklin.edu/ and your local community college. Get an accredited BS in CS online (take tests proctored at your local school) and maybe an AAS from your local community college. I actually went to a "real" university for a few years, then got a job and am a couple of classes away from completing the degree. 'Course, most of the desire to get the degree comes from wanting to get a new job someday...

      Anyway, Franklin's distance courses are pretty good, and their CS degree is actually CS - not some crappy "cs for managers" curriculum with one programming language and a bunch of business garbage. You get real compiler design, OS design, hardware function, and math classes at Franklin (as well as the requisite well-rounded crap, but not at the expense of CS courses). It was the best online CS program that I could find a couple of years ago when I was looking around.
      • Thanks for the info, I'll check it out. I've stayed away from the local community college. I have a friend attending there and I looked over her courses. Pretty bland stuff, but she's only in her second year so she's just taking all the required classes.
        • That's sort of how the franklin thing works. You get the initial well-rouded stuff at your community college where it's cheap and easy (mmm, cheap and easy...), then when you go to a real college you get real courses that are relevent. Eh, it works for me (esp the internet-delivered thing that lets me keep a full-time job).
  • MIT's stuff is really cool by virtue of its name. MIT is respected, well known, etc. All the course materials are also a great store of knowledge. But...

    I've been working on a community educational system called Oomind [oomind.com]. The great thing about oomind is that people are not just passive recipients of knowledge. You can also contribute your knowledge, and evaluate the quality of others' contributions. And, you can answer quiz questions to develop an academic record which is cumulative rather than percentage based.

    You can find more about the philosophy of Oomind [oomind.com], and an introduction to how Oomind works [oomind.com]. The basic idea is that educational material is in the form of courselets. These courselets have scores in ten different attributes including practicality, creativity, and beauty. The scores are based on a weighted average of user's evaluations of the courselet. These scores help in two ways: searching for information, and determining dynamically the academic value of the knowledge. Each courselet can have quiz questions submitted by any user. The questions also have a weight based on users' evaluations. When you answer a question correctly, the weight is used to add a percentage of the courselet's attribute scores to your academic record as a learner.

    Anyway, it is very dynamic, but it is still new so there isn't too much content. Please join up and submit courselets!!!

  • Dang, I was hoping they'd make the textbooks available online. There are a lot of texts I'd love to browse through, but don't really want to spend the $50-$100 each for the privilege. (How did I ever afford it when I was in college, anyway!?)

    The FAQ [mit.edu] mentions that things available "could include material such as lecture notes, course outlines, reading lists, and assignments for each course". That's nice and all, but it sounds like you'll still need to get hold of the textbooks if you really want to take advantage of the course materials.

    BTW, I suspect that part of that $100M figure may be from lack of revenue selling these materials in the campus bookstore. Just a guess.

  • by aturley ( 79907 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @11:06AM (#2410961)
    I found the page for the class on SICP, and lo and behold, THE WHOLE BOOK (well, it look like the whole book) is online at

    http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/full-text/book/book .h tml

    Mod me down if you already knew this. It came as a very pleasant surprise to me. For those who don't know, this book is considered by many to be part of the core of CS books, along with K&R, TAOCP, and the MIT Algorithms book.

    andy
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @11:08AM (#2410980)
    or luddite, but. . .

    It isn't exactly as if the course materials or curricumlum at MIT, or any *other* college, is some sort of great secret.

    Nor is the actual *course material* really going to be online. That will be found in the textbooks.

    If you want to learn physics or how to read the Iliad in the original greek all you need do is make the trip to your local public library, and in some states any state funded college library is also considered a public library, and take out a relevant text.

    And read it.

    Without trying to appear *too* snide, anyone who can't figure this out probably isn't up to college grade work in the first place.

    The possibility of having lecture notes available online is an interesting exercise, but I'm not sure of what general relevance or use it might be. The textbook always contains superiour information, that is why they USE textbooks after all, and lecture notes are, in fact, often useless without the text and only needed to make sure you might have some niggling little tidbit that * that professor, in THAT course, is likely to sneak into a TEST.*

    All in all I see how this might prove useful to the less actually educationally ambitious student of MIT, and how it might prove *interesting* to some of the public, but I fail to see how it in any way AIDS the public in an educational sense. The material is already available to the public, (including the course curiculum of MIT which is published and stocked by public libraries already), in the superiour form of actual texts.

    MIT is correct. They can publish this material freely because 1) The essential information is *already* free and public, and 2) Because you don't pay MIT to reveal to you that F=MA, you pay them to have a professor *explain it to you.* and then be able to say you earned a degree from MIT!

    If all you want is access to the learning material so that you may educate yourself at little or no expense you likely have a vastly superior resource right in your own community.

    It's called a "reference librarian."

    Go introduce yourself.

    KFG
    • The books used in their classes are publically available, but which books are they?

      Most subjects taught there will have hundreds or thousands of books on the subject. I know I'd rather find out which books are deemed useful enough to be included in MIT's cirriculum rather than reading every book on the subject or pick one which may not be very good.
    • naysay away.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by denshi ( 173594 ) <toddg@math.utexas.edu> on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @12:43PM (#2411591) Homepage Journal
      Let me, politely, point out where you are wrong.

      Nor is the actual *course material* really going to be online. That will be found in the textbooks.
      You are, of course, correct -- except for the large number of courses that operate without textbooks of any kind, and use only lectures and notes the professor drafted. These are particularly prevalent in technical classes where the textbooks haven't been out yet, or there is no comparable text. Or the prof just wants to explain things a different way. Happens all the time.
      If you want to learn physics or how to read the Iliad in the original greek all you need do is make the trip to your local public library, and in some states any state funded college library is also considered a public library, and take out a relevant text.
      Certainly. Assuming, of course, that your local public library stocks all texts for MIT-grade classes, especially recent printings and obscure classes. And that no one else has checked them out first. Please. Be serious. When was the last time you could find that O'Reilly book you needed at the public library? Or W. Richard Stevens? Public library funding has been on the slide (or plummet) for years and years now, and it's not like they were ever all that well funded. With the new RIAA laws, libraries' funding situation will get even worse.

      So let's just consider going to the local library and finding an available copy of last year's 'Markov Chains and Simulated Neuro-physiology' textbook just right out, shall we?? What we really need is some kind of system that can transmit large quantities of text and pictures to each interested student's workspace, without reducing the supply for anyone else. Gee, I wonder what we could use....

      The possibility of having lecture notes available online is an interesting exercise, but I'm not sure of what general relevance or use it might be. The textbook always contains superiour information, that is why they USE textbooks after all,
      Oh, right, I forgot. Except for those literally thousands of errors I have found in textbooks over the course of my life. So errata must come with each; distributing such and updating such is difficult if it has to come with the physical book -- I suppose you would need the above hypothetical information transport system, tying the errata to the book, in some kind of 'web'.

      And as I said above, frequently there are no books. Or the books suck, which is an even more common situation. Or school politics fucks up book choice, so the prof is xeroxing and distributing portions of other books, making his own compiliation for the class as it goes along. Or somehow, the prof deigns to think himself talented enough to explain material better, to his focused group, than a general textbook -- perish the thought!

      All in all I see how this might prove useful to the less actually educationally ambitious student of MIT, and how it might prove *interesting* to some of the public, but I fail to see how it in any way AIDS the public in an educational sense. The material is already available to the public, (including the course curiculum of MIT which is published and stocked by public libraries already), in the superiour form of actual texts.
      Okay, cockmonger, let me put it for you straight. The material, at least not all of it, is not available to the public. This missing material, the real deal, the reason people pay 5 or 6 digits for 4 years of it, is the community of learning that supports peoples' interest and efforts. This community is the one thing that the ACES project is trying to duplicate that makes it different from the rest of the 'put notes on the web' projects the world over. Go read the article, join the community, add your ideas to the source -- it's GPLed.

      So in closing, I should thank you for pushing the declining cause of public libraries. They need more support and funding, and always have. But there is so much more to a college course, and to a college environment, that you are missing. Take another look.

    • by staplin ( 78853 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @01:07PM (#2411732) Homepage Journal
      The possibility of having lecture notes available online is an interesting exercise, but I'm not sure of what general relevance or use it might be. The textbook always contains superiour information, that is why they USE textbooks after all, and lecture notes are, in fact, often useless without the text and only needed to make sure you might have some niggling little tidbit that * that professor, in THAT course, is likely to sneak into a TEST.*

      Except, I've a number of classes where the textbooks were strictly optional. Why? Because the professor thought they only provided good background information. Or, the textbook only supplied a convenient reference... all the "real" learning was based upon the lecture. There are numerous reasons this could happen - here are just a few:

      1) There aren't any appropriate textbooks. For example, I took "Linux Kernel Interals". It was all hands on, looking at the code. All the lectures were based upon the professor's and students' personal knowledge. Or how about "Computer Architecture", where our studies were based on architecture principles realized in the PDP-8? (A machine with a decent architecture without being too complex to completely understand.) The only thing available was the lecture notes (which have subsequently been published in textbook form, I believe).

      2) It's a topics/research class. You don't find many textbooks for "Current Topics in MiddleWare". Or in "Current trends in Organo-Metallic Chemistry Research", if you want to leave the computer science field. Sure, you can reference some of the appropriate journal articles, but they won't don't give you the comprehensive view and insights that lecture notes give.

      3) It's a subjective field. How about all those humanities classes? (I'm sure even MIT students have to take a few of these.) Sure, you can list the "Norton Anthology of American Poetry" as a text book, but that by itself won't give you any insight into the cultural and historical forces that shaped a given poem. And it certainly won't help you when the test asks you to expound upon how the author makes an emotional connection with the reader through his careful selection of language.

      I think I've expressed my point. I've usually found lecture notes to be infinitely more valuable than some textbooks. I will admit that there is occasionally a textbook that beats out the lecture notes, but usually that's been because of a lousy lecturer. There's a lot more worth here than you are giving MIT credit for.
  • by domo_jojo ( 466926 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @11:23AM (#2411088)
    Being that most (if not all) universities in America are nonprofits, they suck a great deal of taxes from the government (hence the people) and for this priveledge the Universities gather an immense amount of cash reserves farming out their professors and staff for cash to bussiness and gov't and charging exhorbitant fees for the "honor" to attend a few lectures.

    What I find remarkable here isn't the fact that the info will be free (Mellon et. al. are picking up the early tab) but that it even exists at all. See, one of the scams of education is it's vaporous nature. Having to prepare lecture outlines is one thing, to actually solidify a course's material in almost linear form via a web page has to be remarkable. How many courses, especially the humanities, do you remember as a bullshit waste of time because it was virtually a free for all class discussion or the professor (while well intentioned) was just a very poor professor? This shows, if it comes to fruition, a great deal of courage on MIT's part and proves that they aren't the con artists many Universities are.
  • It would be cool if some people got together and set up a slash site discussing a course at MIT. Anyone could do it, and it would at least help add what is missing from not attending the actual class.

    Of course one of the drawbacks could be the dissemination of misinformation. But I think that on the whole it could be a positive supplemental aid. Any thoughts?
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @11:57AM (#2411292) Homepage
    Check out Course 16.160 [mit.edu], Principles of Automatic Control, which is currently "online". The only real content is a short summary of what will be taught in each lecture. It's a good summary, in that it covers what the instructor considers important in control theory and how to use it to get work done. (It's possible to study control theory, prove theorems for a year, and not learn how to control anything. MIT doesn't make that mistake.) But there's only about five screens of real content for that course, excluding the problem sets.

    There's a section where you're supposed to be able to see questions asked by students along with the answers, but it's empty.

    All this seems great if you're a student at MIT, but it's not useful for others.

  • cool (Score:3, Funny)

    by sulli ( 195030 ) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @12:05PM (#2411355) Journal
    So shall we find a bridge over the Charles River, and measure it in CmdrTacos? [mit.edu]
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
    Now you can get a CS education without ANY danger of meeting women! It's my dream come true!

    Oh... Wait...

  • OpenCourseWare will also help professors to improve the quality of courses by exposing them to the world. The mechanism for doing this in scientific research is the peer-reviewed paper. The mechanism for doing this in teaching is not as thoroughly developed. Except for published textbook and external seminar, the professor is only rated by their students and other profs in the department. OpenCourseWare will "pull their pants down" so to speak.
  • I really applaud MIT's move to make their curriculum available for free over the Internet. It shows an interest in the advancement of science that trumps the growing trend to patent and close-off avenues for technology growth by businesses intent on exploiting technology-related law (who can blame them for doing so?).

    The reason I think it shows real guts is that MIT traditionally has been very focussed on maintaing good relations with industry, and industry that profits from the current base of technology laws, and an industry that donates money to MIT. They are more closely tied together with industry as an engineering school, where a liberal arts school is pretty much independent of direct industrial largesse.

    I was a student at MIT in my past. You may not know this, but MIT is actually run by MIT Corporation. Furthermore, upon entrance to the school, I "had" to sign some kind of paperwork that essentially insured that patents and ideas that I came up with while at MIT were theirs and not mine. Theses, too, are copyrighted by MIT, and generally more difficult to obtain than theses from other universities that are listed by University Microfilms.

    Thus, you can see why I'm impressed at the turnaround evidenced by this move.

    What would be even better would be if they were to release streaming video of classroom lectures, sessions with teaching assistants, as well as lecture notes, problem sets, exams, solutions.

  • by abe ferlman ( 205607 ) <bgtrio@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @02:14PM (#2412145) Homepage Journal
    You can get all of the courses from ArsDigita University [aduni.org] online now. This was a one-year program based loosely on MIT's undergraduate computer science curriculum. It's got Real (unfortunately) video of all the lectures, problem sets and solutions. Pick a course, do them all in order. They're really quite good.

    Bryguy
  • Rick Greenblatt and the TMRC hackers would be proud!!

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