I’m going to be a MITx 6.002x guinea pig!

So having spent my last two posts suggesting that the OU needs to retain at least some face to face tutorial and/or residential school time in its modules, I’ve decided to enrol in an entirely internet-delivered short course in circuits and electronics, of which the BBC says:

… is unusual in that it is inviting students anywhere in the world, without charge or prior entrance requirements, to study for a certificate carrying the MIT brand.

The level this course is taught at is supposed to be equivalent to a module within the first year of an undergraduate degree. MIT say that:

In order to succeed in this course, you must have taken an AP level physics course in electricity and magnetism. You must know basic calculus and linear algebra and have some background in differential equations.

Despite saying they’re aiming at a worldwide audience, that statement seems to suggest that I might have to do a crash course in American culture too. Having done a quick bit of research, AP level is apparently similar to A level courses in content, but rather different in assessment style. So I should be all right.

I have two reasons for wanting to try this. Firstly, the subject matter of the course interests me. Secondly, I want to see if it really is possible and enjoyable to study at degree level purely through the medium of the internet. I’m sceptical (or should that be skeptical?),  but hopefully will remain open-minded.

The course runs from 5th March to 8th June and is meant to take around 10 hours a week. I’ll be blogging about my experiences here, but if you fancy joining me on this journey into the world of 1999AD I’d welcome your company!


  • Shwetha

    Hi, I’m just curious, how did you get to know about the course in the first place?

    • tim

      There was an enormous amount of media coverage about it in the UK a month or so before it started. I think I was one of the first 5,000 or so worldwide to register for it.

  • Beau

    How’re we doing two days in? At the same time I’m doing this week’s coursework I am watching lectures from 8.02 on electricity and magnetism. I wish the site had suggested that earlier, before the first day, but for what it’s worth they are pretty good, informative, since I haven’t taken Physics for three years.

  • Erictrician

    I signed up and await the start on Monday. I am getting on a bit (66) and hope to be spared until the end of the course. I still teach various electrical subjects and am particularly interested in how they manage the distance learning aspects of the course.
    I have got the course reference book “Foundations of Analog & Digital Electronic Circuits” and find the constant recourse to Maxwells Equations to prove self evident electrical theory to be pointless.

    All the Best Eric

  • Mike Thompson

    I’ve signed up for this class. When I (one day..) return to the local community college I will have to take this svcalculus that I failed to complete, and I’ve dreaded it enough that occasionally I brush up on my graphing and math anyways. I’ve got an enthusiast background in electronics and some experience with microcontrollers so hopefully I will be able to get the hang of it..

    Concerning the value of this initially ‘honor system’ pilot, we have to remember that there is always the experience of taking the class and knowledge to be gained. They hint at charging a modest fee in the future and go on to say that for this instance the fee will be waived.. “MITx will not require that you be tested in a testing center or otherwise have your identity certified” which suggests to me that the fee will exist to cover whatever validation scheme they choose possibly based on the percentage and distribution of pilot participants who make it to the final exam. Now.. if you manage to gain an honor credit for this course and go on to successfully complete future MITx courses that charge a fee to have someone in a participating university or library.. check you out, then I suppose you might inherit some authenticity for these honor-based credits at that time…

  • Beau

    I’m a high school graduate who took AP level Physics and Calculus AB, but I am deferring attending university. This seems like a great opportunity to continue my study.

  • David

    Thanks for the replies. Though I don’t have the previous education you do Im going to give it go anyway, as SH says, it’s free.

    I’ve been looking at various home education courses for a while but didnt want to commit to anything given how erratic my working hours can be. Withd this being free I’ve got noting to lose and if I can keep work to 9-6 each day I should be able to fit in enough time to catch up on any required knowledge as the course progresses.

    I’ll keep checking back on your progress.

    • tim


      I had no experience of psychology before I took my OU courses and I was ok with that in the end.

      All the best David.


  • Strategic Hero


    I have also signed up for it, since its free 🙂 and wanted to compare the online teaching style to the OU and other establishments I have studied at.

    Its FREE so everyone sign up for it.


  • Gary Broadhead

    Found this blog after searching for AP Physics. My own education only went as far as GCSE’s in physics but Im going to give the course a try anyway.

  • David

    Hi Tim / Alex. I hope you don’t mind me asking but what qualifications do you have that make you feel you’ll be suitable for this course? The subject matter interests me too and I studied physics at A-Level, though it was over 10 years ago and I’m struggling to remember what grade I received let alone any of the syllabus.

    Although, as you say, because it’s free there’s no harm in signing up. Good luck with it.

    • tim

      Hi David,

      I don’t mind you asking at all.

      I have Physics, Chemistry, General Studies, Maths and Electronics (endorsement) A levels from the early 80s, a lifelong interest in tinkering with digital electronics (and the feeling that understanding a little more about the analogue world may be useful) and a computer science degree (which had some, but not very much, electronics content.)

      However, as well as the subject matter of 6.002x, I’m as interested to see if my preconceptions about internet-only learning are correct.

      Having just finished an OU psychology degree, which was a mixture of books/face to face tutorials/residential schools/videos and DVDs/CD-Roms and online materials, I’m a little sceptical that you can get the same value and enjoyment from purely online learning … but I’m prepared to have my prejudices challenged.


    • Alex Wood

      I studied Maths, Physics, Art and General Studies at A-level at the end of the 90’s, I then did a degree in Mechanical Engineering Product Design and I have been working as a Mechanical Design Engineer for the last 8 years. I can’t remember much from my A-levels and I can only remember the parts of my degree course relevant to my job. I studied a few modules in electronic engineering at university but nothing too comprehensive so the knowledge I would gain from this course would benefit me at work, regardless of whether the qualification is of any value or not. I’m also interested to see how the process of online learning works and as this course is free I do not mind using it as a test incase I decide to enroll on a proper paid for online course at a later date.

  • Alex Wood

    I’ve signed up too.

    • tim

      I know of someone else who has too – so there will be at least 3 of us!!

      I wonder how many people will sign up to be guinea pigs – 1000s, probably – it will be interesting to find out when they open the course materials up to us.

      • Alex Wood

        I think you’re right about the initial interest, I’m sure there will end up being thousands that sign up, as for how many people see it through to the end of the course, that number will no doubt be significantly smaller.

        I would have thought that the more interest the course received, the better it would reflect on the few that end up completing it. It looks like MIT haven’t taken any preventative measures to stop cheating appart from assuming the trust of the students which won’t help increase the end certificates value, which is a shame.

        • tim

          I’m sure that when they start charging for the ‘certification’ aspect of the course the assessments will end up being done in centres like the ones you take the driving theory test in. Indeed, when I went through my Chartered IT Professional certification a couple of years ago that’s where I took the examination part (followed by an online interview and presentation a few weeks later).

          I suspect there is next to no value in a certificate granted under an ‘honor code’ – even if it is from MIT!

  • Belinda Nicholls

    Good luck!,

    • tim

      I might need it! However, as it costs nothing, I won’t feel too bad if I have to drop out 🙂 And maybe that’s another problem with this model of education – if it costs nothing, will I or anyone else truly value it?

Your thoughts?