Sunday, December 30, 2007

OpenCourseWare making an impact

Justin Pope from the AP has written a nice article describing the impacts of the open education movement, in particular the Open Courseware Initiative: Internet Opens Elite Colleges to All

But MIT's 2001 debut of OpenCourseWare epitomized a key insight: Elite universities can separate their credential from their teaching — and give at least parts of their teaching away as a public service. They aren't diminishing their reputations at all. In fact, they are expanding their reach and reputation.

It turns out there is extraordinary demand for bits and pieces of the education places like MIT provide, even without the diploma.

OpenCourseWare's site gets more than 1 million hits per month, with translated versions getting 500,000 more. About 60 percent of users are outside the United States. About 15 percent are educators, and 30 percent students at other universities. About half have no university affiliation.

"I think the fundamental realization is that distance learning will solve the problem of access to certification, but there's a larger problem, which is access to information," says Steve Carson, director of external relations for the MIT initiative."

The Open Courseware Initiative is six years old. It's hard to believe that there are only three Land-Grant universities, with their "democratic mandate for openness, accessibility, and service to people" that have gotten solidly behind this movement. A tremendous opportunity has been squandered, but then again, it's never too late to do the right thing.

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