The announcement explains that the new online initiative will allow students to study at their own pace, offer online laboratories and student-to-student communication, and provide individual assessment of a student's work and certificates of completion. Further, the project operates on an open source, scalable software infrastructure.
"MIT expects that this learning platform will enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students, offering them online tools that supplement and enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences," the announcement says. "MIT also expects that MITx will eventually host a virtual community of millions of learners around the world."
The new online learning initiative will also provide a research environment in which to study online teaching and learning. MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif is leading both the online learning initiative and the research around it. "Many members of the MIT faculty have been experimenting with integrating online tools into the campus education," Reif says in the announcement. "We will facilitate those efforts, many of which will lead to novel learning technologies that offer the best possible online educational experience to non-residential learners. Both parts of this new initiative are extremely important to the future of high-quality, affordable, accessible education.”
An MITx prototype is expected to be released in the spring of 2012, and when it's stable, the open learning software will be available at no charge so that other educational institutions can take advantage of it for their online education efforts.
A little more than 10 years ago, MIT announced OpenCourseWare, free online educational material from MIT courses. Ten years later, an estimated 100 million people worldwide have taken advantage of some of the more than 2,000 courses.
Over the next decade, MIT plans to reach one-billion online learners:
We aspire by 2021 to make open educational resources like MIT OpenCourseWare the tools to bridge the global gap between human potential and opportunity, so that motivated people everywhere can improve their lives and change the world.
MIT plans to make OpenCourseWare easy to find, available on mobile gadgets, and accessible to underserved groups. The university also plans to customize content to reach a wider range of cultures, take advantage of new technologies to help people interact with the learning material, and utilize educators as a key multiplier to share the online material with students.
To learn more about the MITx initiative, check out the FAQ available on the MIT site.