The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 50.0°F | A Few Clouds
Article Tools

8.02x is not nearly as rigorous as 8.02

I am writing this in response to the article by Tea Dorminy, after I read the Letters to the Editor in the March 8 issue. Let me start by saying that I praise edX to the sky even though the real breakthrough was made in 2001 by MIT when OCW was invented. This was comparable to the invention of the printing press around 1450. EdX was a logical consequence of OCW. It was obvious to me as early as 2004 that sooner or later edX-like organizations would pop up.

My 8.02x course is now online (37,700 registered). There are three midterm exams (together 45 percent course credit) and 1 final exam (30 percent course credit). Thus the four exams count for 75 percent of course credit. The exams in 8.02 and 8.02x are equally rigorous. Yet there is a huge difference in the way the exams are taken.

Exams at MIT are proctored. MIT students have to take each of the three midterm exams in 50 minutes, closed book; notes and calculators are not allowed. The final is three hours with the same restrictions.

People on 8.02x get two (maybe three) days for each midterm exam (also for the final exam); two days is about 60 times longer than 50 minutes. In addition, the 8.02x exams are open book, notes are allowed, the students can search the web with their laptops, they can look up the solutions of similar problems in previous problem sets including those on OCW, they can watch the lectures again and they can get help from outsiders. Compare this with the restrictions that were imposed on my 8.02 students. The difference is night and day.

Clearly we have a long way to go before 8.02x is as rigorous as 8.02 and that will also be the case for my 8.01x course, which will go online in September.

Walter Lewin

Department of Physics Professor Emeritus