MIT is offering an online course about the Internet of Things, and this is what you need to know up front: It's going to require, perhaps, six to eight hours of study time a week, which includes watching videos of lectures, engaging with faculty and fellow students in forums and taking tests.
It begins April 12 and continues through May 24. It costs $495, and unlike some online courses, there is no free option. Students who complete the program and pass the tests earn a certificate of completion and 1.2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in MIT's professional education program.
In exchange for their time and money, students will get an introduction, a roadmap, into the IoT and hear from some of the university's top professors, including Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and founder of the World Wide Web Consortium. This professional program is a relatively new effort for the university.
The courses "are targeted at professionals who are trying to think about the future of their companies," said Sanjay Sarma, dean of digital learning at MIT and a professor of mechanical engineering.
MIT believes its approach to online professional training will play an important role in corporate education programs. So far, it has offered professional courses in security and big data. Technology trends are changing so rapidly today that employees may be required to spend a few hours each week in training to upgrade skills, Sarma said.
Mark Paquett, the president, CTO and co-founder of The Databank, which makes database and CRM tools for nonprofits, has taken MIT's security and big data courses for professionals and said they were worthwhile.
"I wanted a leading-edge lay of the land," said Paquett, such as understanding hardware-based encryption. "It kind of opened my eyes to some of the technologies that are emerging," he said.
For its part, the IoT will pervade all aspects of business and life, and "it's going to change and evolve," said Sarma. It will become "almost a nervous system that drives everything we do."
Students do not need a technical background to complete the IoT course. That's in contrast to a master's program, which will look at the issues in a more fundamental way and consider the engineering, physics or chemistry of a given topic, said Sarma.
The expectation is that students will leave the course with an understanding of the foundational principles, architectures, applications, security and protocols that underpin the IoT, said Sarma.
The professional program differs from MIT's MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which are regular MIT courses geared for students, and made available to the "world" for free -- or for a fee for those who are seeking a certificate.
The number of students who enroll in the IoT course may number in the thousands, but the university will scale up the number of teaching assistants to handle the load, said Sarma.