MIT OpenCourseWare

Posted on August 18, 2010

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This image is linked from the MIT OpenCourseWare site where it appears courtesy of Ken Steele and Anant Agarwal.

I’d like to direct your attention to a truly praiseworthy endeavor: MIT OpenCourseWare!  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has taken a vast portion of their course content and published it on the internet for you to use completely free of charge.  Aside from some particular materials included under special licenses or fair use rules, the whole thing is published under the same type of Creative Commons license as the Grok Project.

MIT OpenCourseWare does not grant anyone course credit or any type of degree or credential.  It also doesn’t come with any grading services or access to MIT faculty for answering questions and the like.  But it does include (in many cases) video recordings of all the lectures in a course (updated periodically), PDFs of all the problem sets, other handouts, quizzes, exams, lecture notes, information on how to acquire the textbooks, and other useful tools and information.  For those who excel at independent learning, this is an incredible resource!

Many students thrive more with the asynchronous nature of online courses.  You can pause and rewind lectures!  Perhaps more importantly, you can move faster when you find the material easy and slower when you’re having more difficulty.  In fact, colleges and universities all over the world are catching on to this and offering their own online and / or “blended” (i.e. combined online and in-person learning) programs in which you can actually matriculate.  Just be careful – there are a lot of scams out there too.

The reason this is very relevant to me at the moment is that I want to become an engineer.  At present I am a bachelor of the sciences.  I majored in computer science and minored in mathematics.  I’d like to end up in aerospace engineering, with a focus on spacecraft control systems.  While I’ve gained a lot of practical experience in several fields of engineering, a higher degree program is quite a leap from computer science, which isn’t an engineering discipline.  So my present game plan is to find my way into a computer and electrical engineering master’s program; that’s a lot closer to my undergraduate work.

I had also planned to enroll in an online course as a non-matriculating student, so that I could earn course credit to both improve my application and to apply toward a master’s degree once I am admitted to a program.  But distance learning for engineering is more rare than for most other fields and it turns out that the vast majority of schools that do have such offerings do not offer them to non-matriculating students.  This, combined with other limiting factors such as the very high course tuitions (especially for engineering) have led me to change my plans.

THE REALLY EXCITING PART:

MIT OpenCourseWare won’t give me course credit, but I’m not waiting to get started!  And I’m bringing you along for the ride.

This semester I’ll be administering, to myself, MIT’s 6.002 Circuits and Electronics.  I’ll be calling upon friends, coworkers, generous professors, and even any willing volunteers from my Grok Project audience to help grade (and sometimes proctor) my problem sets, quizzes, and exams (although the latter two will not be posted here).  The course includes some lab work as well, so I’ll have to obtain the necessary materials on my own.  It would be fantastic if others decided to do this along with me.  I’d love to have classmates!

The textbook is already on its way to me, thanks to a gift certificate that was given to me by some of my wonderful relatives in Florida.  A big thank you to Dick, Marianne, Maria, and Shannon!

I’ll start the class on Monday and I’ll attempt to keep up, on average, with its original pace.

By the way, if you’re looking to donate to a worthy cause, MIT OpenCourseWare needs money to keep itself going!

Thank you for reading!

LINK: Next 6.002 post

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