Sunday, June 01, 2008

M.I.T. For Free

A movement has recently begun within universities all over the world to make their course content available to anyone on Earth with an internet connection – for free! No fees, no application, no restrictions. Just knowledge, freely available to any and all. M.I.T. initiated the OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement in 2002, and now, 120 other universities from all over the world have followed suit, publishing the complete content of all or part of their course catalog.

College students, curious "self learners," and professors from countries as diverse as Dubai, France, Morocco, and New Zealand are benefiting from the free availability of the very best university level course material. From schools as prestigious as M.I.T., Tufts, Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, University of Tokyo, Hanoi Medical University, and Harvard Law School, published OCW content includes class syllabi, lectures in audio and/or video form, homework, notes, illustrations, etc. – literally all course material that can be transmitted electronically.

M.I.T. soon plans to have its entire course list (all 1,800 classes) freely available online. The Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore plans to offer half of its courses as OCW by the end of this year (40 of it's 200 classes are already available), and others are following suit.

The amazing generosity of these institutions of higher learning is simply stunning, and aside from realizing their commitment to the free availability of knowledge also serves to inspire true hope, sincere gratitude, and genuine pride in many.

Here's how one Parisian student put it:

"The MIT OCW program is a generous and far-sighted initiative that will do more to change the world for the better than a thousand Iraq-style invasions," the MIT site quotes Leigh Pascoe, a self-learner in Paris, as saying. "It does much to restore my faith in the enlightenment of the American people and their great experiment in democracy. This program should be emulated by every university worthy of the name."

While OCW materials don't come close to replacing on-campus classes at the world's best universities, where interaction among students and professors, commented homework, lab assignments, etc., will always ensure plenty of demand for "the real thing," the possibilities for independent study by individuals from around the world who seek to begin or supplement various academic pursuits are seemingly endless.

Bravo, M.I.T. – and thank you!

Click here to read an excellent article on this subject in the Christian Science Monitor Online.

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