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MITx vs. OCW

MITx differs from OpenCourseWare (OCW) in several important ways, but there is the possibility of confusing the two. Here’s a breakdown of what MITx is and what it isn’t, and how it compares to OCW.

MITx is …

New. Content for MITx will be mostly brand new and designed specifically for the platform. Even video lectures will probably need to be re-done for MITx.

Interactive. Completing a course on MITx involves completing assignments and exams, receiving grades and getting feedback.

Mostly free. Details haven’t been entirely worked out yet, but most of the educational material will be accessible to any user free of charge, unless they want to get an MITx certificate. In that case, users will pay a “modest” fee.

Multi-pronged. MIT has two goals for MITx: 1) supplement the residential learning experience for students on campus, and 2) bring online educational offerings to the rest of the world.

More work for faculty. The provost likens building an MITx course to writing a textbook. Faculty also stand to get a share of the revenue generated by their courses.

A platform. MIT hopes other institutions will use the open-source software that runs MITx to offer their own courses online.

OCW is …

A publication of MIT course materials. Courses on OCW have been designed for students at MIT, and not for a particular online learning initiative. OCW simply makes the materials from regular MIT courses accessible online.

Mostly static. Students do not complete assignments or exams on OCW, but may view assignments and exams that were once taken by real students. Students do not get grades from OCW, nor do they receive feedback on their progress in learning course material.

Broad. Virtually any course can be published on OCW. MITx, on the other hand, will only have courses that are designed for the platform.

Easy for faculty. Once a course has been taught at MIT, it’s relatively easy to publish it on OCW. An MITx course, however, will need to be designed with online learning objectives in mind.

Not certificate granting. OCW cannot, in the traditional sense, substitute for actually taking a course.

All of this isn’t to say there will be no connection between MITx and OCW. In an email sent to OCW supporters, OCW Executive Director Cecilia d’Oliveira said, “OCW will also be enriched by the materials created for MITx programs, which will be shared openly on the OCW site.” She also noted that MIT remains fully invested in OCW, and OCW will “continue to be MIT’s free and open effort to share the curriculum used at MIT.”

It can also be expected that MITx courses will draw heavily on what professors actually teach here at the Institute, so content found on a course’s OCW page might be very similar to content found in an analogous course on MITx.