edX: Harvard and MIT offer courses online for anyone

Harvard and MIT have teamed up to offer courses online for anyone: http://www.edxonline.org. At this point, they have not stated what courses will be offered. It seems like they are in the very beginning stages of this project.

Details appear to be limited as to how this will really operate. Here is information about the technology used to deliver the courses:

“An open-source online learning platform that will feature teaching designed specifically for the web. Features will include: self-paced learning, online discussion groups, wiki-based collaborative learning, assessment of learning as a student progresses through a course, and online laboratories.”

Now here is one thing I found very interesting:

“The platform will also serve as a laboratory from which data will be gathered to better understand how students learn.”

Essentially what this means: If you sign up and participate in these courses your data CAN be used for research. I assume MIT and Harvard got a grant to develop this and conduct research on it, however, that is not stated from what I saw.

Now here is the most interesting thing in regards to getting credit for taking these courses:

“EdX will be available to anyone in the world with an internet connection, and in general, there will not be an admissions process. For a modest fee, and as determined by the edX board, MIT and Harvard, credentials will be granted only to students who earn them by demonstrating mastery of the material of a subject.

As determined by the edX board, MIT and Harvard, online learners who demonstrate mastery of subjects could earn a certificate of completion, but such certificates would not be issued under the name Harvard or MIT.”

Does that mean the courses are free or will there be a charge? It seems there definitely will be a charge to get the certificate which will not be associated with MIT or Harvard. So I guess the question is, why take these for this certificate? How much will the fee be? What is the value of this certificate (i.e., will anyone recognize it and for what subjects). These questions should seriously be considered by anyone before taking these courses. Even if the courses are offered for free there is still a free for proof that you took it which essentially means these courses are not free.


Harvard pushing open access journals

Harvard is pushing its faculty to publish in open access journals due the high prices that journals charge. Here is the article: http://www.engadget.com/2012/04/25/harvard-overpaying-for-research-wants-open-access/

I have recently been thinking about this concept: I spend a lot of time writing an article, months of revision, and finally get it published only to find that my school needs to pay a significant amount of money to access the article. Not only that, but I am paid nothing and lose rights to it. Additionally, this journal will probably ask me to help peer review their articles, again paying me nothing. This makes no sense. Either the schools or professors need to be paid for this work and should not be charge outrageous amounts of money for journal access since all of the leg work was done for free by faculty. So open access makes sense. Open access journals are usually online and available for free to anyone.

The only problem for myself? I am not a full professor so I need to continue publishing to the ‘top’ journals whether they are open access or not. So while I applaud Harvard’s effort, I hope that they are telling their junior faculty that they do not need to go for the ‘top’ journals but rather open access journals (and open access can be the ‘top tier 1’ journals but I am just assuming they are not in all cases)