It turns out that this kind of itinerant self-schooling is pretty common. MIT says 61 percent of OCW users live outside the U.S. (the largest block is in East Asia, with 22 percent). Steve Carson shared case studies with me featuring students, educators and self-learners from Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Nigeria and St. Lucia.
Take the story of two Bostonians, Ann Nguyen and Alison Cole. Recent college grads (Nguyen from the University of Massachusetts -- Amherst, Cole from Scotland's Edinburgh Napier University), the two decamped this summer to India, where they plan to live cheaply for a few years while attempting a bold experiment. Nguyen and Cole saw in OCW's freely available teachings the material for an "alternative grad school" of their own design. Theirs is the ultimate study-abroad program -- self-imposed graduate-level distance learning conducted from a far-flung location that also happens to have plenty of opportunities for hands-on work related to the subject of study, environmental engineering. Cole told me that she's not sure how well it will work but that the two want to answer a number of questions, foremost among them: Can a person conduct work with high academic integrity outside the auspices of an institution?
"I'm an academic at heart," Cole says. "But the realization that continuing my education would only further my debt and reduce my ability to afford life and a family really bummed me out." She and Nguyen are using the syllabi from MIT OCW's courses in ground hydrology, soil behavior and aquatic chemistry to construct a program that will study arid-land restoration, a subject that has practical applications in India and will also be relevant out there in job-land when it comes time to move back. (How employers will feel about this self-governed education remains to be seen.)
Although Cole and Nguyen appear to be the first to attempt to use OCW as the basis for a full-blown graduate program, they're hardly the only hardcore autodidacts. Consider "Deevani," who e-mailed me one afternoon in response to a call for satisfied OCW students. Deevani turned out to be A. Ines Rooney, a 34-year-old music-industry executive who moonlights as a songwriter specializing in the Latin-inspired hip-hop known as reggaeton. Rooney is self-taught in 12 languages, including Urdu, Bengali and Mandarin, and spends whatever spare time she has after producing and recording records (and raising her children) to devour OCW language, culture, literature, economics and finance classes -- some 80 of them so far, she estimates. "I think I have a Ph.D. right now," she says, half-kidding. "I just don't have the credit."
Rooney is right. You'll never earn a degree from your self-imposed studies. As Carson points out, no amalgam of text and video, no matter who builds it, will ever be a substitute for an actual MIT education. (Or an education from Carnegie Mellon, or Notre Dame, or anywhere else.) You can't actually use the labs or interact with faculty, who are the real draw of a college.
Like any open-source program, however, free Internet education is evolving. "There are Yahoo groups that have formed around MIT content," Carson says. "If [independent learners] don't need certification but need content, they can go to OpenCourseWare and form a group."
(Sort of) Living Up to My Potential
I could have used a support group. The second week of my experiment, a little shell-shocked by my failure in physics, I listened to three MIT biology lectures. It didn't stick. Next I sought out something science-y that was both easier to handle and more practical. I opted for a seminar taught by the chemist Patricia Christie, a lecturer in MIT's Experiment Study Group. "Cooking," read the course description for Kitchen Chemistry, "may be the oldest and most widespread application of chemistry, and recipes may be the oldest practical result of chemical research." It sounded perfect until I hit a snag: There were no video or audio lectures.
As a quotee in this piece, I'd like to share information about Peer2PeerUniversity.org . For this peer run free university (no formal accredidation, like open courseware), we created a course in Arid Land Restoration. This is our first year, so please check us out! P2PU.org
Behavioral Economics and Decision Making
Copyright for Educators
Introduction to Cyberpunk Literature
Land Restoration and Afforestation
Neuroethics and International Biolaw
Open Creative Nonfiction Writing
Poker and strategic thinking
I love MIT on youtube, I watch it all the time. My favorite is Aircraft Systems Engineering which is all about the development of the space shuttle with lectures by many of the people who developed it. Oh and you can ask questions, the youtube community that watches these video's often respond to your queries.
holy crap i'm going back to school. well not school but home computer screen school!
this is a good thing, distribute fine education on a massive scale and you end up accelerating progress.
this is exactly what the world needs right now.
no i'm not being sarcastic.
So why can't a real university establish a program based on MIT's lectures quiz's and exams but without suffering the enormous cost in buildings and salaries. Graduate student assistance and labs following the course content could be provided at a minimal cost.
Graduates could write state or federal level professional exams for PE type standing. A competition could be held to compare the skill of real MIT grads to off campus graduates.
An excellent way to give poor and 2nd 3rd world students an education and recognition they could only dream of. Seems like a huge waste to have every school in the world duplicating the efforts of the best and brightest at MIT.
I definitely saw this same information on the NYTimes blog, but I don't think that online learning should replace classroom interaction. I think that it should facilitate the learning experience and replace tutoring. I believe sites like Thinkwell and MindBites are the future of tutoring and will replace test preparation schools like Kaplan and Sylavan Learning and The Princeton Review. MindBites offers individual lessons on specific subjects for a small fee of $0.99 while The Princeton Review makes you pay for a full course overview. Judge for yourself: mindbites.com/category/5-education
Education expenses is really depressing. Especially today, I am experiencing hardship to send my children to school because our income fluctuated badly. I used to have cash advance to sustain the daily needs of my family. At the same time working so hard.
here is the link to apply online: http://personalmoneystore.com/Cash-Advance/
i hate school. why couldnt they think of something else
What! No Football!
I Google Everything. Anything you could possibly want to know has been exploited on the internet one way or another.
Not just intellectual information but even the all the pointless stuff. Anything else you can theorize and then get all the similar variable's of truth on the internet to support your logic.
Learning by yourself allows you to do things your own way that may not have been done before, possibly resulting in a more efficient way of learning. Being self taught is a great way to learn. Learning how to do things whether its hands on skill, or observing another beings technique.
I want to learn as much about nature as possible. So I pragmatically theorize about the most common anomaly's to life. Example : Existence of All Matter existing Within the Gamma Gradient radiated energy, including the X-ray and Ultra Violet spectrum's. To find some answers I will Google others thoughts on the subject, by searching for the subject itself.
Learning new words and new definitions I gain Understanding and then I express my understanding and debate in order to get an answer or somewhere closer.
The Internet has been the most important technological advantage to mankind since the telephone. Both, being communication tools. Human Communication is Very Important, because the more we can Teach Each Other, the Faster we all get there.
Take what is Available, Give What is Not.
The information of the world's most brilliant minds is within a search engine. So Take It. If you haven't seen a concept your interested in, Post is Somewhere and you will get feedback.
As a senior at MIT, I am not surprised that he struggled with 8.01 for several reasons.
1. It is a hard class. Many of the actual students were confused too. I know I struggled with the math.
2. No recitations! 8.01 has two or three hour long recitations a week with a professor. You work problems and ask questions. With ocw, you only get half of the instruction.
3. No textbook. The 8.01 textbook is well written, and useful. I spent many hours re-reading sections.
4. What about problem sets? They should be online as well, with solutions, but you didn't mention doing them. You actually understand the material by working problems. You would have to be some sort of mega-genius to lean without them.
5. Other students. On my hall, there is a pset party every night where the freshmen work on the 8.01/8.02 problem set together. I know I wouldn't have survived without friends who had a better understanding of the math.
Anyway, that's my two cents. Don't feel bad for "droping" the class :)
the teachers in the actual campuses MAKE SURE you know the info so they can get that piece of paper called a diploma and with computers there are methods of "cheating" if you will...so they dont give you diplomas by e-mail, insecure. As easy as that
If you live in very remote area and if you can understand english, you can learn quite a lot. Specially if you combine video lectures with torrents and other P2P technologies. But the applicability of knowledge remains mostly in the hands of politics. We need video lectures for leaders.
With education becoming more and more expensive, a lot of people are not able to afford college and pursuing an online degree may be their only chance of getting a higher education. What’s more, online education degrees are now being regarded as equal in value to their traditional, classroom counterparts. Many universities, such as the Independence University www.independence.edu , offer a wide choice of distance learning courses that you can pursue at your own pace. How much you take away from these courses will depend on how committed and honest you are to the effort.
I don't think having lectures available to view really gets you very far into a subject.
Many years ago, I studied Physics at Cambridge. But I rarely went to lectures. These were not really the important part. To be honest some of the lecturers were appalling in their delivery and just said out loud what was in the book they had published.
Tutorials and problems set for those tutorials were the bread and butter of the learning. All the material in the lectures was available in the various text books, but it was actually the individualised challenges set in the small tutorial groups of 2 or 3 students, and the feedback we got that really made the difference.
Physics is not about 'learning stuff', its about being able to 'do stuff', solve problems. We would often be asked tutorial questions that noone had the answer for yet. so learning information would not have helped.
I suspect that a similar situation exists for other subjects be it engineering or humanities, languages etc. It's the exercises that the learner goes through to learn the skill or gain the knowledge that makes the difference.
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Internet courses are very useful . I for one, never go to classes and study at home. Online courses can really help when you get stuck. Only thing you have to watch for is that the course is relevant to your studies.Anyway I think it's a great initiative.
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I’m in my 30s and I still enjoy learning about new subjects. Online learning has given me limitless opportunities to expand my knowledge and all from the comfort of my home office. I may not be receiving any degrees but that’s not why I do it - I do it for the love of learning and that itself is priceless!
I am sure they will have more to employ later. Good luck for the team!
For his dynamic teaching and frequent stunts (building a human pendulum, firing golf balls at glass panels), he's been downloaded by physics enthusiasts around the globe and profiled on the front page of the New York Times as the first luminary of online open learning.www.thaicartrick.com