MIT is the newest school to jump on the free, online education bandwagon. Yesterday it announced the first class in a series its calling MITx, which is set to begin next month. Pre-requisite for the course? None. Sign up, show up (virtually), and take the tests, and you could earn an accredited certificate. The prototype course is Circuits and Electronics, so you know, easy A for all you Liberal Arts majors. From the BBC: “This is not a ‘watered down’ version of the campus course or ‘any less intense’, says a university spokesman.

The main difference is that the MITx version has been designed for online students, with a virtual laboratory, e-textbooks, online discussions and videos that are the equivalent of a lecture. It is expected to take 10 hours per week and will run until June.” Another difference is the accreditation. Again from the BBC: “MIT is making a distinction between the certificate on offer for online students and the fully-fledged degree available to campus-based students. It will also make the MITx material available for its own students.” It’s not quite clear what the difference is, but my guess is that an MITx certificate comes with a scowl from students who pay $50k a year to attend the physical university. The school is starting small with this one course offering; however, it intends to offer other classes in biology, math, and physics in the future.