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You are an MIT student!

I don’t have much time to write today as I have a math final tomorrow and plan to spend a few more hours immersed in Prof. Strang’s Linear Algebra textbook.

However, I thought I’d at least mention that I found Time Magazine’s selection of you as person of the year interesting and quite appropriate, in many ways. I certainly fit the profile. I have six email accounts, I check my Facebook profile daily, I participate in an internet forum (JREF, of course!) and have many online friends from this forum. I just joined My Space, and I guess I have a blog now.

Are you also Time’s person of the year? I bet you are. We all are, at least those of us with computers and the internet. Even my grandma is Time’s person of the year. She emailed me a holiday card this year! What a world. I love it, honestly.

In this world where you are important, I’d like to let you know that you can go to MIT! That’s right, you– whoever you are, wherever you are– can be an MIT student as long as you have access to a computer and the internet.

Alas, MIT won’t give you a diploma unless you’re an accepted, registered student who has finished all the degree requirements, but nevertheless you can be an MIT student by visiting MIT’s open courseware site. Through this website, you can watch lectures, view a syllabus, homework assignements and answers, tests and answers, et cetera.

Naturally, open courseware is no substitute for the experience of being an MIT student. I mean, you haven’t really been to MIT unless you’ve mastered the all-nighter, can track your friends’ movements on campus using Athena terminals, can navigate the underground tunnels and go everywhere without stepping foot outside, have learned how to fend off male engineers (if you’re a female grad student, anyway), have developed a desire to steal large objects from CalTech, et cetera.

Nonetheless, if you are self-disciplined enough, you can learn just as much– or more– from open courseware than an MIT student can learn sitting right in the classroom. I recommend Prof. Strang’s Linear Algebra class. The tests were somewhat tricky, but I really enjoyed the lectures and the homework.

Sure, it’s not quite the same as actually taking the course, but it’s not a bad substitute.

So, go ahead. You are an MIT student!

Evelyn

Evelyn is a geologist, writer, traveler, and skeptic residing in Cape Town, South Africa with frequent trips back to the US for work. She has two adorable cats; enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking; and has a very large rock collection. You can follow her on twitter @GeoEvelyn. She also writes a geology blog called Georneys.

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6 Comments

  1. I think these open courseware sites can be particularly useful for folks like me who already have a degree but, er, may have forgotten a lot… or only half paid attention in the first place. ;) Good for a refresher if you already have a basic acquaintance with the material, in other words. A grand idea overall, though, and it takes us back to the role of universities as part of the larger community, not just limited to the students immediately attending.

  2. I think open courseware is a very good thing. We've had it for a few decades here in the UK as a result of the OU (see here). My mum did a degree with them, and they're quite well respected (she was offered to continue her studies at one of the big names here).

    Astrogirl2100, I can't speak for MIT but in the case of the OU they tend towards residential courses for lab work, usually at universities dotted around the UK. Their website details their decades old methodology.

  3. Evelyn wrote:

    I mean, you haven’t really been to MIT unless you’ve mastered the all-nighter, can track your friends’ movements on campus using Athena terminals, can navigate the underground tunnels and go everywhere without stepping foot outside, have learned how to fend off male engineers (if you’re a female grad student, anyway), have developed a desire to steal large objects from CalTech, et cetera.

    You didn't mention pimping oneself out Rocky Horror-style for Steer Roast, throwing large chunks of alkali metals into the Charles River, detonating oobleck with liquid nitrogen bombs, targeting the unwary with trebuchets, and using all means necessary to get comic-strip characters to attend the Institute.

    I mean, that "et cetera" covers a lot. . . .

    ;-)

  4. I'm one of them thar OU students JackPT mentioned – just got a disctinction for level 2 chemistry yay. I also did the optional residential for the labs, which was great. But having failed a conventional university chemistry course many years ago, the books (and dvd) only focus of OU study keeps you focussed on the science rather than getting carried away with whizz bang labs (although I did love my week back in labs and am half wondering about doing an MSc in organic laboratory practice when I finish this degree).

    Next year I'm going a year of level 2 earth sciences, the OU sends you a study kit with a microscope and lots of rocks, there is an optional residential and also a very active student geo-soc with lots of field trips. One of my courses is on earth and life, biology is not my Favourite Thing, so I might become an MIT biology student between now and February (course start date) to brush up

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