Monday, December 26, 2011
Knowledge and the Future
Knowledge is different from other goods. Unlike most goods, if one has knowledge and passes it to another, one doesn't have less. In fact, knowledge grows and becomes more valuable when more people have it, because they can add to and improve on it. One might even end up increasing one's own knowledge (you think I haven't learned from my students?) Hence, when one passes knowledge to another, one often increases the stock of knowledge by more than the amount of knowledge passed on...a phenomenon economists call increasing returns.
Therefore, anyone in the world with the motivation and the ability to learn ought to have the opportunity to do so. They ought to be able to access the best of the world's knowledge. Of course, that's not possible, right?
Here's what Susan Hockfield, President of MIT says: "...anyone in the world with the motivation and ability to engage MIT coursework should have the opportunity to attain the best MIT-based educational experience that Internet technology enables."
Wow! For some time, MIT has made available an excellent selection of online lectures and materials through their Open CourseWare program. They are now beginning to build an online learning initiative MITx, which will feature courses and certification for those completing them.
Some particularly interesting details from the MITx FAQ:
Who can take courses on MITx? Will there be an admission process?
As with OCW, the teaching materials on MITx will be available to anyone in the world for free, and in general, there will not be an admission process. However, credentials will be granted only to students who earn them by demonstrating mastery of the material of a subject.
In MITx, what will be free and what will cost money?
All of the teaching on the platform will be free of charge. Those who have the ability and motivation to demonstrate mastery of content can receive a credential for a modest fee.
What will it cost to get a credential for a given course?
MIT is in the process of determining a fee structure for individual courses and groups of courses. The aim is to make credentialing highly affordable.
"We" at Unforeseen Contingencies give a thunderous standing ovation to MIT for this work. We wish them the greatest of success. We predict that this is the wave of the future in education (well, one of them, anyway). And you can expect us to be studying "at" MIT ourselves!
Photo: "Knowledge mural in the Thomas Jefferson Building. The caption is
IGNORANCE IS THE CVRSE OF GOD
KNOWLEDGE IS THE WING
WHEREWITH WE FLY TO HEAVEN.