mitx in Dockray 2013

the “fruits of [their] scholarship” from languishing “artificially behind a pay wall.” MIT has long promoted openness of its materials, from OpenCourseWare (2002) to its own Open Access policy (2009), to a new online learning infrastructure, MITx. Why is it that elite, private schools are so motivated to open themselves to the world? Would this not dilute their status? The answer is obvious: opening up their research gives their faculty more exposure; it produces a positive image of an instit

licity, students, donations, and contracts. We can guess what ‘opening up the university’ means for the institution and the faculty, but what about for the students, including those who may not have the proper title, those learners not enrolled? MITx is an adaptation of the common practice of distance learning, which has a century-­‐and-­‐a-­‐half long history, beginning with the University of London’s External Programme. There are populist overtones (Charles Dickens called the Externa

mics. At the University of California, the Board of Regents launched a pilot program as part of a plan to close a 4.7 billion dollar budget gap, with the projection that such a program could add 25,000 students at 1.1% of the normal cost. Aside from MITx’s free component (it brings in revenue as well if people want to actually get “credit”) most of these distance-­‐learning offerings are immaterial commodities. UCLA Extension is developing curricula and courses for Encore Career Institute, a for-­‐profit venture bringing together Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and a chairwoman of the UC Regents, whose goal is to “deliver some of the fantastic intellectual property that UC has.” And even MITx is not without its restricted-­‐access bedfellows; its pilot online course requires a textbook, which is owned by Elsevier. Students are here conceived of truly as consumers of product, and education has become a subgenre of publication. The class


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