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One Course, 150,000 Students


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MIT's Anant Agarwal

"It was fascinating to see how quickly students were helping each other. All we had to do was go in and say that it was a good answer," says MIT's Anant Agarwal, who taught the first MITx online course.

Credit: M. Scott Brauer / The New York Times

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Anant Agarwal recently completed teaching Circuits and Electronics, the first course in MITx, a massive open online learning platform from MIT, which ran from March 5 to June 8 and enrolled more than 150,000 students.

Agarwal notes that much of the actual learning comes in the platform's discussion forums where students can answer each other's questions. The discussion forum has many features, such as karma points. If someone posts a question, and another student likes it, or a student answers a question correctly, they get karma points. Students who accumulate enough karma points get some of the privileges of an instructor, such as closing down a discussion when people have come to the right answer.

Of the 154,763 people who registered for Circuits and Electronics, fewer than half got as far as looking at the first problem set, and only 7,157 passed the course. "One thing we're thinking of is to offer multiple versions of the course, one that would last a semester and one that could stretch over a year," Agarwal says.

MIT recently agreed to partner with Harvard University to form edX, which will offer free online courses with a certificate for completion.

From The New York Times
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