Distance Learning

MITx Adds Instructor Grading in MOOC

The study of philosophy is hardly the dead-end its detractors would have one believe. Students who major in the subject do better on the GRE than just about any other major in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. And, according to The Wall Street Journal, philosophy majors tend to earn more, with mid-career salaries in the 90th percentile that exceed the earnings of people who pursued majors in accounting, business management or computer science.

And with MOOCs the road to enlightenment can start right now. Beginning on August 29, MIT will be kicking off its latest round of "Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge and Consciousness." This time, however, some participants will have the chance to submit a paper and have it reviewed by the instructors — a first for MITx, the institution's edX portal. To participate in that activity, students pay $300 as part of the MOOC's "verified certificate" program. In return, they'll have their work reviewed, commented upon and graded by "professional philosophers."

"Listening to lectures and reading books is great, but philosophy is all about taking complex ideas and organizing them in a simple way. You learn by writing, specifically writing to someone," said Caspar Hare, an MIT philosophy teacher who will lead the MOOC for its third iteration.

The MOOC, which is also available for free without the certificate, has two goals: The first is to introduce students to "things that philosophers think about," such as whether God exists, the nature of knowledge and how we get it, whether we have free will, and how our human traits evolve. The second goal is to help participants think "philosophically" themselves, in order to help them develop their "critical reasoning and argumentative skills more generally."

As one reviewer from a previous iteration of the MOOC expressed, "This course was pretty challenging and it took me a while to get into it. I am so grateful for this opportunity and feel that I have acquired a new skill."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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