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MITx Opens Enrollment for First Interactive Online Course; Pilot Certificates Will Be Free

picture of a circuitWant to learn the basics of what goes inside your smartphone and computer?

You can get a better grasp of that gadgetry in a free online course announced today by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—the first class to open in the institute’s closely watched new interactive online learning venture, MITx. And if you pass the course, MIT will award you a certificate for free.

The prototype class, “6.002x: Circuits and Electronics,” opens for enrollment today (sign up here). The course will run from March 5 to June 8. Modeled on an introductory class typically offered to between 100 and 250 undergraduates on campus, the course will help students make the transition from physics to electrical engineering and computer science. Teaching it will be Anant Agarwal and Chris Terman, co-directors of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Piotr Mitros, a research scientist in the lab; and Gerald Sussman, a professor in the department of electrical engineering and computer science. (Follow this link for an earlier version of the course offered through MIT OpenCourseWare.)

“This course offers the foundations behind pretty much all the smart devices and cool electronic gadgets out there,” Mr. Agarwal said in a conference call with reporters. “And this course really establishes the absolute basic foundations that are needed in order to build and engineer and create those devices.”

Students will get grades based on homework assignments, activities in a gaming-style virtual lab, and tests—all evaluated by machines. But MIT is still putting together the system for credentialing that work, which has attracted much attention (see here and here). While the certificates for this course will be free, students will have to pay a modest fee for credentials in future courses expected to begin this fall. And while those certificates will indicate that work was done on an honor system, future MITx classes will take a more sophisticated approach. Plans call for partnerships with companies that offer proctored test sites around the world, and, ultimately, perhaps even the use of electronic systems that verify students’ identities through facial-recognition and other technologies, institute officials have told Wired Campus.

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