The Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- which pioneered the idea of making course materials free online -- today announced  a major expansion of the idea, with the creation of MITx, which will provide for interaction among students, assessment and the awarding of certificates of completion to students who have no connection to MIT.
MIT is also starting a major initiative -- led by Provost L. Rafael Reif -- to study online teaching and learning.
The first course through MITx is expected this spring. While the institute will not charge for the courses, it will charge what it calls "a modest fee" for the assessment that would lead to a credential. The credential will be awarded by MITx and will not constitute MIT credit. The university also plans to continue MIT OpenCourseWare,  the program through which it makes course materials available online.
An FAQ  from MIT offers more details on the new program.
While MIT has been widely praised for OpenCourseWare, much of the attention in the last year from the "open" educational movement has shifted to programs like the Khan Academy  (through which there is direct instruction provided, if not yet assessment) and an initiative at Stanford University  that makes courses available -- courses for which some German universities are providing academic credit. The new initiative would appear to provide some of the features (instruction such as offered by Khan, and certification that some are creating for the Stanford courses) that have been lacking in OpenCourseWare.