From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
OpenCourseWare is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to put all of the educational materials from MIT's undergraduate- and graduate-level courses online, free and openly available to anyone, anywhere, by the year 2007. MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) can be considered a large-scale, web-based publication of MIT course materials. The project was announced in 2001. The concept of MIT OCW grew out of the MIT Council on Education Technology, which was charged by MIT's provost in 1999 with determining how MIT should position itself in the distance/e-learning environment. MIT OCW provides a new model for the dissemination of knowledge and collaboration among scholars around the world, and contributes to the “shared intellectual commons” in academia, which fosters collaboration across MIT and among other scholars. The project was spearheaded by Hal Abelson and other MIT Faculty.
In September 2002, the MIT OCW proof-of-concept pilot site opened to the public, offering 32 courses. In September 2003, MIT OCW published its 500th course on the way to offering virtually all of MIT's courses by 2007. The response from MIT faculty and students has been very positive and MIT OpenCourseWare is seen as being consistent with MIT's mission (to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century) and is true to MIT's values of excellence, innovation, and leadership.
The main challenge in implementing this initiative has not been faculty resistance, but rather, the logistical challenges presented by determining ownership and obtaining publication permission for the massive amount of intellectual property items that are embedded in the course materials of MIT's faculty, along with the time and technical effort it has taken to convert the educational materials from 500 courses to an online format.
It is possible to look at this initiative as a shot across the bow of those who are trying to turn curricula into a commodity. Consolidation in the publishing industry has led to the formation of huge corporations that sell books and teaching materials to schools. These companies are always trying to leverage the capital value of their curricula. For example, they are, increasingly, experimenting with on-line distributed education in order to sell their content more widely and in that sense they may be trying to replace the traditional school. With this initiative, MIT may be saying that they can even give their curriculum away and this will not reduce the value of an MIT education, that there may be something in the educational process that cannot be captured in a book.