Confused about the many digital learning opportunities from MIT? You’re not alone. Luckily, with the launch of the new MITx course 2.03x Dynamics and the near simultaneous publication of the new OCW Scholar course 2.003SC Engineering Dynamics, along with the long-available MIT OCW publication of 2.003 Modeling Dynamics and Control I, we have a great opportunity to better understand the spectrum of digital learning opportunities now available from MIT. These are not exactly the same course in each case (2.03 is a new generation of curriculum replacing 2.003 in the residential program), but they are close enough for purposes of illustration:
The traditional OCW publication of 2.003 Modeling Dynamics and Control I, is a static publication of course materials gathered after the conclusion of a residential MIT class. Presented on the OCW site, this is an openly licensed and openly published catalog of content, organized by content type.
The materials are designed to be used as a reference for educators creating courses and curricula at their own institutions, students seeking alternative explanations of key discipline topics, and as general informal learning materials for lifelong learners. The site supports no interactivity with other site users or the MIT community, and no recognition is given for use of the materials. Because this model publishes preexising content and does not include significant instructional design work, it is relatively inexpensive to produce, allowing OCW to present thousands of courses in this format.
Also presented on the OCW site, 2.003SC Engineering Dynamics is a special type of OCW publication designed to serve the needs of independent learners. OCW Scholar courses include very robust sets of course materials organized in logical sequences of units rather than the organization by content type that is used in the standard OCW presentation. The starting point for these courses is existing residential course content, but significant alterations and additions are required.
The OCW Scholar courses (of which there will be a total of 15) are designed specifically for independent learning, but they still follow the basic tenets of the OpenCourseWare model: openly licensed content, open access (with no registration), no interactivity, no registration. While the focus is on independent learning, the materials can still be used as a reference for educators and students—although it is a little more difficult to browse through the content. Because these courses involve instructional design and content creation, they are much more expensive to develop than standard OCW courses.
Rather than being publications of open content, MITx courses such as 2.03x Dynamics are true online learning environments. Because the focus here is on teaching students rather than sharing content, the materials are not openly licensed, but they include content that would not be sharable in an open publication, such as commercial textbooks. Interactive assessments of student work are built into the materials. The site supports student-to-student interaction, and limited interaction between the teaching staff and students. Successful completion of course requirements is recognized by a certificate of achievement.
Here, the focus is on learning. Registration is required, there are schedules to be followed, and assessments to complete. Because these materials are available for limited times, the materials are not openly licensed, and progression through them is more limited, the MITx courses do not work as references and sources of content in the same way as the OCW publications above. But they do provide a learning experience significantly beyond that which OCW materials can support.