MIT OpenCourseWare -- Fact Sheet


1. What is MIT OpenCourseWare?

The idea behind MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) is to make MIT course materials that are used in the teaching of almost all undergraduate and graduate subjects available on the web, free of charge, to any user anywhere in the world. MIT OCW will radically alter technology-enhanced education at MIT, and will serve as a model for university dissemination of knowledge in the Internet age. Such a venture will continue the tradition at MIT and in American higher education of open dissemination of educational materials, philosophy, and modes of thought, and will help lead to fundamental changes in the way colleges and universities engage the web as a vehicle for education.

MIT OpenCourseWare will provide the content of, but is not a substitute for, an MIT education. The most fundamental cornerstone of the learning process at MIT is the interaction between faculty and students in the classroom, and amongst students themselves on campus.

2. What course materials would be available on OpenCourseWare?

MIT OCW will make available the core teaching materials that are used in MIT classes. Depending on the particular class or the style in which the course is taught, this could include material such as lecture notes, course outlines, reading lists, and assignments for each course. More technically sophisticated content will be encouraged.

3. In what format will the course materials be placed on the web?

The MIT OCW website will be coherent in design but flexible enough to accommodate many different types of courses, lectures, seminars, etc. The design and searching capabilities will help users locate materials by discipline and subject area, type of materials, name of individual faculty or author, and type of instruction.

4. How does OpenCourseWare differ from other types of web-based education, including distance learning?

Many individual faculty at MIT and other universities already use the web extensively to make standard course materials available to their students. Some colleges and universities now require a website for every class. But, to a large extent, these websites are designed for and access is provided only to the students of these institutions. MIT OCW is an unprecedented institutional effort of a much broader magnitude, as the goal is to provide the course materials free and open to the world. Nothing of this scale has ever been attempted before.

MIT OCW is not a distance learning initiative. Distance learning involves the active exchange of information between faculty and students, with the goal of obtaining some form of a credential. Increasingly, distance learning is also limited to those willing and able to pay for materials or course delivery.

MIT OCW is not meant to replace degree granting higher education. Rather, the goal is to provide the content that supports an education.

5. Who will use OpenCourseWare and what are the potential benefits?

The materials on the OCW site will be open and freely available worldwide for non-commercial purposes such as research and education, providing an extraordinary resource, free of charge, which others can adapt to their own needs. Some of the anticipated benefits are:

  • Faculty at colleges and universities around the world can use the OCW materials to develop new curricula and specific courses. These materials might be of particular value in developing countries that are trying to expand their higher education systems rapidly.
  • Individual learners could draw upon the materials for self-study or supplementary use.
  • The OCW infrastructure could serve as a model for other institutions that choose to make similar content open and available.
  • Over time, if other universities adopt this model, a vast collection of educational resources would develop and could facilitate widespread exchange of ideas about innovative ways to use those resources in teaching and learning.
  • Within MIT, OCW would serve as a common repository of information and a channel of intellectual activity that would stimulate educational innovation and cross-disciplinary educational ventures.

6. Are faculty required to participate in MIT OCW?

Participation of MIT faculty in MIT OCW will be voluntary, although judging by the number who already actively utilize the web as part of their teaching, we expect that within 10 years, over 2000 MIT courses will be available on the MIT OCW website. Resources will be available to provide teaching assistants and professional production support for developing and maintaining the MIT OCW website. MIT will commit to the continuous support of the MIT OCW educational environment.

7. Are there other experiments in educational technology at MIT?

MIT is undertaking a number of ambitious projects to enhance and potentially transform the educational experience through the use of new technologies. These projects are stimulated and supported by MIT's Council on Educational Technology and by Project I-Campus, a collaboration between MIT and Microsoft Research.

Listed below are examples of such projects:

  • TEAL: The TEAL Project will establish a technology enabled active learning environment for large enrollment physics courses, which will serve as a national model for such instruction. Building on the experience of other universities, TEAL will merge lectures, recitations, and hands-on laboratory experience into a technologically and collaboratively rich experience. Software and teaching materials developed in this effort will be made available nationally at little or no cost, in the hopes of motivating a national effort along these lines.
  • WebLab: MIT students can now test and probe fragile, microscopic electronic structures via a novel online lab that can be accessed from dorm rooms and other locations 24 hours a day. Although the lab's focus is the study of microelectronic devices, WebLab has the potential to revolutionize science and engineering education by providing online access to state-of-the-art labs.
  • ArchNet: The ArchNet project is based on the idea that educational technology should be employed to create and enhance learning communities. All community members will have individual workspaces in ArchNet which provide them with personalized entry points to the system, and which also allow them to represent themselves and their work to other members of the community. Learning community environments of this sort will be very widely used in professional education in the coming years.

MIT is also engaged in several collaborative and distance learning projects around the world. In the future the technologies that are being developed to support these efforts will also be utilized to enhance OCW materials. Some of these projects include:

  • MIT's Design Studio of the Future (DSOF): The DSOF is an interdisciplinary effort between the School of Architecture and Planning and the School of Engineering that focuses on geographically distributed electronic design and work group collaboration. As a design project moves along, aspects of the work can be shared, discussed, changed, and implemented through electronic means.
  • MIT-Singapore Alliance: In November 1998, MIT joined in an alliance with the two leading research universities in Singapore -- the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University -- to explore the application of information technology in the creation of a new global model for long-distance engineering education and collaborative research.
  • MIT's System Design and Management Program (SDM): MIT's first degree granting program offered through distance education, SDM provides students with expertise in both management sciences and engineering, specifically in the areas of system design and new product development.
  • Cambridge-MIT Institute: This is a new enterprise between MIT and Cambridge University in England that will develop educational and research programs designed to stimulate the development of new technologies, to encourage entrepreneurship, and to improve productivity and competitiveness. A key component will be an undergraduate student exchange program.

8. What intellectual property policies will govern OCW materials?

The policies toward the intellectual property created for MIT OCW will be clear and consistent with other policies for scholarly material used in education. Faculty will retain ownership of most materials prepared for MIT OCW, following the MIT policy on textbook authorship. MIT will retain ownership only when significant use has been made of the Institute's resources. If student course work is placed on the MIT OCW site, then copyright in the work remains with the student.

9. What is the projected timetable for OpenCourseWare?

If funding comes through as hoped for, we would begin a pilot program in the fall of 2001, with a goal of making over 500 courses available on the World Wide Web over the next 2 1/2 years. Over the next decade, the project expects to provide over 2000 courses across MIT's entire curriculum -- in architecture and planning, engineering, humanities, arts, social sciences, management, and science.

10. How will OpenCourseWare be funded?

We are currently seeking outside funding partners to help cover the start-up and annual costs of the project for the first decade of operation. We anticipate that development costs during the initial phase of the project will be between $7.5 million and $10 million per year.


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