When 15-year-old Ahaan Rungta joined the freshman class at MIT this fall, he had already been studying at the storied institution for a decade.
By himself. At his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Rungta, who was being homeschooled, was introduced to OpenCourseWare (OCW) by his mother when he was 5. OCW is a MIT's online learning platform that makes all of the school's courses available for free. It allows anyone from across the globe to access courses and brag to friends that they're getting the best adult continuing education in the world.
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Rungta didn't wait for the "adult" part, instead getting his entire elementary and high school education through the program.
"I studied math through OCW's Highlights for High School program, and when I was ready for Linear Algebra, I watched all of Professor Gil Strang's 18.06 video lectures. From the time I was 5, I learned exclusively from OCW. And I knew then I wanted to go to MIT," the prodigy told MIT News.
While not the only institution to open source its classwork, MIT offers one of the most comprehensive class lists. And its in good company. Yale, Carnegie Mellon and Harvard Medical School, among others, offer similar programs.
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The emergence of free online learning is not just changing lives for child prodigies. It has democratized higher education, giving anyone with Internet access an opportunity to learn from some of the most elite teachers in the world.
Some consider it revolutionary.
"Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty - by providing them an affordable education to get a job or improve in the job they have. Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world's biggest problems," wrote Thomas Friedman in the New York Times.
From the very first time he used OCW, Rungta knew he wanted to attend college at MIT. Now that his dream has come true, the biggest question is: what will he major in?
"In an ideal world, I would want to major in everything," the teenager told MIT News.