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MIT to Begin Sign-Ups for Free Online Course With Certificate

Massachusetts Institute of Technology will begin enrollment today for the first course in its enhanced online platform, where students around the world can take classes and get a certificate upon completion.

The first class -- 6.002x: Circuits and Electronics -- will be free, though subsequent courses will come with a small fee, MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif said in a phone interview. The three-month course will begin March 5.

For the past 10 years, MIT has provided documents and lecture notes online for more than 2,000 courses through its OpenCourseWare program to more than 100 million people. Through its new MITx initiative, non-MIT students will, for the first time, have their performance assessed and receive certificates if they show mastery in the subject, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based school said in a statement.

“Anybody anywhere that has the time, motivation, drive to learn this kind of material should be given the opportunity to do so,” Reif said. The new program will have more interactive features than MIT’s current OpenCourseWare offerings, he said.

Students will have video lectures, midterm and final exams, weekly deadlines to complete homework and labs and access to discussion forums. They can expect to spend about 10 hours a week on the course, MIT said.

While enrollment in the first course is unlimited, the college isn’t making predictions on how many students may sign on. The introductory course calls for an advanced mathematics and physics background.

“Our estimate could be off by orders of magnitude on the lower or higher end,” Anant Agarwal, the lead instructor of the class, said on a conference call. More courses will begin later this year.

The circuits and electronics class will focus on the inner-workings of smartphones and other “cool gadgets,” Agarwal said.

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