Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been in the free online course business longer than just about everyone else. Its website is chock full of exciting riches, but navigating the site can be a challenge. While MIT groups the courses by subject area, it can be difficult to discern which courses offer more than bare-bones reading lists.
So, here is a guide to finding the good stuff.
It helps to think of MIT courses as coming in four main varieties, corresponding to different kinds of banana splits. The most basic variety (think naked banana) is a course outline, with a syllabus, a list of readings and maybe some lecture notes. The vast majority of MIT Open Courseware courses are these naked bananas.
If you want ice cream on your banana, you want the courses with audio or video lecture recordings. You’ll find most of these on MIT’s iTunes U page, or you can browse for courses identified with the audio or video icons.
For a convenient list of courses with audio video resources, click here, or look for this link on the left-hand border of the website.
Now, you want chocolate sauce on your ice cream? Check out a special section called OCW Scholar. The 12 enhanced courses in this section (out of a planned total of 20), include video lectures, as well as problem sets, extra explanatory material and links to online study discussion groups. Most of the 12 courses are in math, science and engineering, but you will also find Introduction to Psychology and Principles of Microeconomics.
Finally, are the new MITx courses , which are the banana splits with cherries and sprinkles on top. These courses, just beginning to be rolled out, are MIT’s entry in the exciting new world of Massively Open Online Courses or MOOCs. In a MOOC, you sign up in advance, watch online videos, do homework, participate in online study groups and take exams. While you won’t get official MIT credit, if you finish you can get a certificate of completion. MITx has already conducted its first class in Circuits and Electronics. More are planned through its announced partnership with Harvard University called edX.