In China, free first-class tuition at a touch
Beijing- When Anant Agarwal taught his circuits and electronics class in the hallowed halls of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the complicated and intricate nature of lectures often gave students headaches or sent them to sleep.
That doesn’t happen now. The solution was to put the lectures online first, which freed up the live classes and allowed students to become more involved in activities, discussion and exploration.
Agarwal, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, was not the first to put course videos online and make them available to the public – Yale University has been doing it for years – but he took it a step further.
Rather than just screening the lecture online, he and his team added Q&A sections, homework and a grading system to the learning platform. Some universities are even granting certificates to students who have finished a series of the e-courses.
The open source platform is called edX, a nonprofit learning enterprise founded by Harvard University and MIT that offers free online courses from the world’s best professors and universities to anyone in the world with Internet access.
“We are creating a selected network of the world’s top schools, the Xconsortium, to offer the world’s best educational experience to anyone who wants it,” says Agarwal, president of edX.
EdX, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, consists of 29 leading institutions, including Boston University, Cornell and Seoul National University and, in China, Tsinghua, Peking and Hong Kong universities.
The Chinese branch of the network is called XuetangX (xuetang is Chinese for classroom).
“I hope these Chinese courses can enrich our worldwide course pool and be easily accessible to the world,” Agarwal says.
XuetangX is split into two parts: the massive open online public course and a blended learning portal for on-campus students.
Tsinghua University joined edX’s Xconsortium in May, becoming the first university in the Chinese mainland to create online courses. Now its star courses History of Chinese Architecture and Principles of Electric Circuits are available on edX.org.