M.I.T. to Offer Certificates from Free Online Courses

February 6, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. mastery (n.)
[mas-tuh-ree] – having a full understanding or expertise in a certain subject matter
Example: The champion skater frequently practiced to gain mastery of her jumps and spins.

2. approach (n.) [uh-prohch] – a method or a means of accomplishing something
Example: The students enjoy the teacher’s humorous approach to teaching.

3. laboratory (n.) [lab-ruh-tawr-ee] – a place for practice, observation or testing
Example: The drug company has laboratories for testing the quality of medicines.

4. credential (n.) [kri-den-shuhl] –a document used as evidence of one’s abilities and skills
Example: One’s credentials are always asked to determine if a person is suitable for a job.

5. augment (v.) [v. awg-ment; n. awg-ment] – to add something to (something) in order to improve or complete it
Example:  Talking to a native English speaker can augment one’s English skills.

Read the text below.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) will soon launch M.I.T.x, a new program offering free online courses to people all over the world. Moreover, anyone who joins the program can get a certificate upon mastery of a course.

The new learning approach will be similar to that used in M.I.T.’s other free online learning service OpenCourseWare, which the school started 10 years ago. Through OpenCourseWare, the school is able to post materials from 2,100 courses and share them to millions of users worldwide.

But unlike OpenCourseWare, M.I.T.x will adapt a more interactive style of learning through online laboratories, self-assessments and student-to-student discussions. According to Anant Agarwal, director of M.I.T.’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, students can now use more advanced tools and learn together through an online community.

At present, many schools offer online learning programs, but M.I.T.x will be the first to offer certification to those who complete its courses. Instead of an M.I.T. degree certificate, however, a credential will be given to a student to show that he or she has completed a course within M.I.T.’s non-profit program.

Although the courses will be free, students may be charged a small fee for credentials. School officials said any profit earned will be used to fund M.I.T.x.

The school also mentioned that M.I.T.x may benefit not only online learners all over the world, but also MIT’s on-campus students, who can use the online tools to augment their experiences in classrooms and laboratories.

M.I.T. hopes that the program may also inspire other universities to offer their own free online courses.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Why do you think online classes are becoming popular nowadays?
·         Do you think online courses can replace formal education in schools? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         Which would you prefer: studying with other people or doing self-study? Please explain your answer.
·         What would most likely be your reason if you were to enroll in M.I.T.x or in a similar online class?


February 6, 2012