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MIT Announces MITx Online Learning Initiative

MIT announced this morning an online learning initiative called MITx, which it describes as “a portfolio of MIT courses through an online interactive learning platform.” MITx is being combined with an MIT-wide research initiative on online learning and teaching.

Online learning is nothing new to MIT; if you’re aware of online education at all you probably know about OpenCourseWare from MIT, which makes notes, lectures, etc from 2000 courses available for free at http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm (along with updates via an RSS feed; love you MIT.) From the announcement it seems like the MITx initiative is different from OCW in that it offers courseware and community and credentials.

The fact that MITx will “feature interactivity, online laboratories and student-to-student communication,” (from the announcement) and “allow for the individual assessment of any student’s work and allow students who demonstrate their mastery of subjects to earn a certificate of completion awarded by MITx” (also from the announcement) makes it sound like this is the next step between the raw content of OpenCourseWare (lecture notes, video lectures, transcripts, etc) and the complete package of an on-site, MIT education. (In one way it’s a tiny step, but in another way the idea of credentials being available through free courses like this is a huge leap.)

Not that I’m going to be able to investigate any time soon; a FAQ on MITx indicates that this new initiative will not launch until Spring 2012, and that will be in an experimental, prototype form. The same FAQ notes that OpenCourseWare is not going away (“OCW will continue as before: It will make course materials from across the MIT curriculum available to the world for free. There will be no reduction in the level of what OCW offers.”) and that, while credentials will be available through the MITx platform (“Those who have the ability and motivation to demonstrate mastery of content can receive a credential for a modest fee”) an MIT degree assuredly will not (“MIT awards MIT degrees only to those admitted to MIT through a highly selective admissions process.”)

The Tech has a somewhat more extensive overview of MITx (and I guess MITx really is “a brand,” though it’s disconcerting to think of it that way) and an article from the New York Times.

Find Webinar Listings

Seems like every time you turn around you hear the word webinar. All it means is a seminar or presentation that’s held on the Web, but to me it also means, “I’m sure there are tons of cool presentations out there and many of them are free, but I don’t think I’ll be able to find them all.” I feel better now that I know about WebinarListings at http://www.webinarlistings.com/.

This site lists Webinars. (Sometimes they’re not hard to figure out.) Hit the calendar link and you’ll get a nice list of upcoming events for the next week or so. Actually it’s too lists; a list of featured webinars and a list of basic ones. Between the two lists there were thirteen webinars listed a recent day, from “The Secrets and Lies Behind Social Media Success” and “Introduction to Team-based Authoring” to “Strategic Planning as Organizational Development” and “Planning Your First Webinar” (in case you wanted to get meta.) The featured listings seem to have a lot more detail, but event pages for both lists have the essentials (who, what, when, and how much) as well as a bevy of ways to share the webinar, as well as list it on your own calendars. Most of the webinars I looked at were free, though I did find one that was $79.

If you’re only interested in specific topics you can also search for a webinar. I did a search for Facebook and found six webinars between now and the end of the month.

The site invites webinar hosts to list their webinars here; you have a choice between free listings and $60 featured listings. Check out this page for details on how to submit a webinar. And if you want to keep up with changes to the site, WebinarListings does have a blog.

Peer 2 Peer University Starts Round Two

Thanks to Creative Commons for the heads-up about Peer 2 Peer University, which has announced its second round of free and open online courses. Read this and sign up quick, because the registration deadline is February 28…

What the heck is P2PU? The tagline for the site is “Learning for everyone, by everyone, about almost anything,” which should give you a good overview. The site, which is run by volunteers, is trying to create a source for high-quality, low cost education.

Currently the site is in its second phase of courses, which will run from March 12 to April 23. You can get the course list at http://www.p2pu.org/course/list. Courses offered include “Solve Anything! Building Ideas through Design,” “Managing Election Campaigns,” “Intro to Concepts in Behavioral Economics and Decision Making,” and “Climate Resilient Cities”. You’ll have to register on the site before you can sign up for the courses.

I don’t know what’s on tap after this next round of courses — pilot phase three? — but you can follow Peer 2 Peer U’s blog at http://blogs.p2pu.org/.

Harvard Launches Beta-Test Site for Digital Scholarship

The Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication has launched its public beta site for its open access repository, DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard). It’s available at http://dash.harvard.edu.

You can search the site by keyword or you can browse by community. There are two communities available at the moment — Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Harvard Law School. Harvard Law School has about 64 items at this writing compared to over 1400 for the Arts and Sciences.

I did a search for politics and got 357 results. The results ranged from a 1991 article, The Politics of the Estranged Poor, to a pre-peer-reviewed article that actually won’t come out until 2010, International Adoption: The Human Rights Position. Search results are default-sorted by relevance but can also be sorted by title, submit date, and issue date.

Click on the title of a search result item for more detail, including abstract, a link to the published version, cite-able link, author information, and citation. Of course there’s a link to the full article as well; all the ones I saw were in PDF format.

I saw an RSS link, but when I looked at it, it seemed only to be a feed for getting information on the latest materials added to DASH. That’s fine now, but could easily get overwhelming as more communities are added to the site. If ever an archive screamed for keyword-based RSS feeds…..

There are something less than 1600 items in the repository now, though I found plenty to browse through with my keyword searching. If you want more, however, be sure to go back to the DASH front page to find links to more collections, like HMScholar and the Open Collections Program.

Courseopedia Wants to Connect You to Classes of All Sorts

Courseopedia launched at the beginning of this month but I’m just now looking at it because of Labor Day! Courseopedia describes itself this way: “Courseopedia is designed to eliminate tedious searches through multiple online college catalogs, alert adult learners to local colleges and private educational resources they might otherwise not know about, and provide a central location for browsing and discovering classes of interest.” Right now it’s limited to just California schools (but already it’s got over 50,000 courses from over 50 city and community colleges) but it plans to expand to nationwide. The URL is http://www.courseopedia.com.

The front page offers you a simple keyword/zip code search, or you can go through topic lists in several categories, including vocational, health, computer, science, art, etc. Additional tabs at the top of the search allow you to search for programs and schools, while two other tabs let you look at a career guide and either leave or search for comments about schools/programs/courses.

(If that simple keyword/zip search is not enough, there is an advanced search option that lets you search using commonsense elements like whether the course is online or not, and more esoteric factors like the instructor’s first name!)

I did a search for Hair and 90210 and got a results lists that looks like this:

Courseopedia Search Results

You’ll see that the information returned includes course numbers, dates, times, and where the course is being offered. I was kind of surprised to see all those “Chairside Techniques” courses — those are courses for dental hygienists — so I wondered if Courseopedia finds keywords inside other words. I did a search for airsi and I got the same “Chairside” courses. So if you use shorter words or keyword strings that show up inside other words, don’t be surprised if you get unusual search results.

There’s more detail besides what’s offered on this one screen shot. Click on the title of the course and you’ll get a course description, contact information for the institution offering the course, and prerequisite information. With some courses I saw things like uniforms being required, but I never saw information about required textbooks. Considering how much books cost and how much they can add to the expense of an education, this seems like an unfortunate omission.

There is already a great deal of information here and Courseopedia is only covering California! I’m looking forward to more extensive offerings. Be careful about your search terms, though.

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