I finally finished all of my homeworks for CS373 and SAAS, and I even managed to complete the one for CS101… pheeeew, it’s been a long coding night! But I’ve been able to complete them all in time, and I even had the time to get into some discussion about Kalman filters and brushing up my Control Systems Theory. My professor would be proud of me!
A few minutes ago the time for March the 5th finally came on GMT, and so the first MITx course officially launched. I just had to take a peek, and the first impression is simply WOW.
Now, I know that probably I won’t take that course to its end, I’ve had enough of Analog and Digital Circuits for my BS, thank you. I don’t know why, but as much as I adore mechanics, I’ve never been too fond of circuits. I can happily go down to the logical circuit level, but when it comes to resistors or diodes I simply get very, very bored. So I already know that I’ might drop the 6.002x course very soon, as soon as it demands more than what I already know.
Then why did I enroll? Well, because I’m a real fan of e-learning. It’s a really new field, at least at this level and scale, and there are so many initiatives, so many people are exploring the field and testing which methods will lead to the best results. I think that they also have to define the measurement scale for the “results” themselves, what are the metrics to decide whether a course was successful or not. So I’m trying to have a look at all the different approaches, and get an informed opinion about what works and what not, what is missing and what could be bettered.
I’ll have to take a deeper look in the next few days, but so far MITx 6.002x is sporting:
- The richest UI I’ve seen so far. Cool!
- Videos filmed specifically for the course, not “recycled” from a live class. Great.
- Even some acted videos of students. Fun
- Background music and proper movie-making. Cool, keeps you engaged.
- Chance to slow down or speed up the video. Useful.
- Clear pronounciation from all the speakers. As a non-native english speaker, I’m so grateful.
- Captions scrolling on the side, so that they don’t disappear as soon as the word is over. Great improvement.
- And the captions are clickable! You’ll jump right at the point in the video. Wow.
- An online lab: a circuit designer much like SPICE. Really really useful.
- A free, full textbook. This textbook actually. Amazing.
- A discussion forum, like aiqus or the Udacity forums. Ok, they all have one.
- A wiki that supports even circuit boards as content. Super-cool.
- A cool, cool progress section. Did I say cool?
Also, MITx will actually issue a certificate. While the validity of this certificate is only up to whoever wants to accept it, it certainly is a plus.
While some of these things might seem only cosmetic improvement if compared to the other courses that are online now, I must admit that they make the experience very interesting. Other instead are really rocking. If you compare these features with other courses, that may even have a required textbook that you actually have to buy or that have very poor video editing, the quality is superb and makes you want to go on. I’ve also heard one of my professors at University say that the MIT-style is much different that the Stanford-style… well, you can surely sense that in the videos I’ve spent an hour or so on this course now, which is amazing considering my lack of interest for the subject itself, but what’s more amazing is that I’m really intrigued to go on with the course.
Just to be clear: not that spending a few bucks on an ebook is too much to pay for a university-level course, but these classes are meant to reach everyone in the world, and they should think mostly of those people who are really willing to learn but don’t have the means to afford college education, or that live in countries where “a few bucks” is your monthly salary. Bringing education to these people is the great power of these online courses, more than bringing it to people like me who were born in a country where you have full access to all the knowledge that you want, and that were able to attend good schools at any level.
But be warned: from what I can sense now, this is not a 101 course, it seems that you need some prior understanding of basic electronics, or you’ll get lost at the very first explanation of how the tools work. But I may be wrong, I’ll check the lectures and then I’ll see…