Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is not only challenging minds, but also the way education is accessed and taught — and it won't cost you a penny.
The university, in collaboration with Harvard, launched edX in 2012, which aims to enhance educational opportunities worldwide, increasing on-campus learning and furthering the reach of research by transporting learning from the classroom directly to a person's home through online courses.
The not-for-profit educational venture has been so successful that MIT has further developed 90 unique courses through edX, called MITx, which has around 1.7 millon individuals registered from over 200 countries.
Enrolment is free and courses mirror the structure and rigour of a regular class with assignments, discussions, due dates and teacher feedback through online forums and an array of interactive tools.
An official certificate of achievement is available for a fee.
MIT has also opened the door to humanities with the latest massive open online course (MOOC) offered by the Institute starting on 29 August 2016 focusing on philosophy, an area that has previously outperformed every other major on the GRE, writes the MIT Office of Digital Learning.
The Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge and Consciousness course presents an opportunity for students to delve into and challenge preconceived notions of the world and critically analyze complex arguments. The course facilitator, Caspar Hare, states that:
"[W]riting is essential to developing these skillsâ¦ [J]ust answering multiple choice questions isn't enough. You need to interact and bounce ideas off of other people. And from MIT's perspective, the new feature helps bring to light different ideas from people with different cultural backgrounds. Writing enables these insights to pass through the community, which benefits everyone."
MIT News reports that students who major in the field of philosophy tend to earn more, with mid-career salaries in the 90th percentile.
To receive official certification for the course, students pay $300 to enroll within the âverified certificate' program. However, if a certificate is not necessary, then participation in discussions and acquiring knowledge about the the way philosophers think about the world and understanding the evolution of human traits is free.
Hare states that one of the aims of the course is to "help participants think âphilosophically' themselves, in order to help them develop their "critical reasoning and argumentative skills more generally."
A previous reviewer of the course expresses that the course was "pretty challenging and it took me a while to get into it. I am so grateful for this opportunity and feel that I have acquired a new skill."
Staff at MIT can submit interest to facilitate a course and there are a number of grants available from MIT to encourage development.
The MIT Office of Digital Learning reports that the data collected from these courses is being gathered to develop a better understanding of the process of online learning. Researchers examine completion rates, how students utilize the resources available online and the success of the online learning environment itself.
To see a full list of courses available, readers can visit the edX website.