MIT to open-source educational software

University expands its OpenCourseWare to offer accreditation

As part of an initiative to expand its online course offerings, MIT announced on Monday that it plans to release as open source the software it will use to manage student online learning.

The new initiative, called MITx, will build upon the university's popular online offering, called OpenCourseWare, a free repository of most of the institute's undergraduate and graduate course materials. In operation for 10 years, OpenCourseWare includes materials for nearly 2,100 courses, which have been accessed by over 100 million people around the globe.

MITx will offer all the material needed for taking college courses online, and the institute will offer credits for completed work. MIT students will also use the platform to access material from their own classes.

The institute will also make the MITx online interactive platform available for other educational institutions to use as well, through an open source license. The software could be used for online courses not only by other higher education institutions, but also by trade schools and even primary education institutions, according to MIT.

The enhanced online offering should accelerate the global interest in distance learning, and better allow MIT to fulfill its mission of educating people around the world, said MIT President Susan Hockfield, in a statement.

The organization is still working through the details of how the MITx certification will work, but will offer the accreditation for a modest fee. MITx students will not be able to receive degrees through MITx, however. MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif is leading the effort.

MIT will launch MITx early in 2012, and release the software sometime after that, when it is in stable form. OpenCourseWare will continue to offer materials online for no cost.

Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for the IDG News Service. You can follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. His email address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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