In 2001, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) changed the world forever by announcing that the school would be making most of its course materials available online for free. According to the MIT President Charles M. Vest, the school felt that OpenCourseWare was a 'natural marriage of American higher education and the capabilities of the World Wide Web.'
Although the OpenCourseWare project would not grant degrees, it would provide free course materials, such as lectures, assignments and exams, to self-learners around the world. The university hoped that learners would use the materials for self-study. MIT also hoped to stimulate educational innovation and impact the curriculum in higher education systems everywhere.
MIT added its 500th free course in 2003 and has since added 1,300 others. The response from faculty and students has been so positive that MIT recently promised to keep the project going indefinitely.
Other Universities Offering OpenCourseWare Materials
MIT has had a lasting impact on the education world. The project has inspired a number of universities to develop their own OpenCourseWare programs using the MIT model. Today, there are more than a dozen U.S. schools providing high-quality course materials for free on the web. Some of the best include:
- Brigham Young University
- Carnegie Mellon University
- John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- Tufts University
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of California, Irvine
- University of Massachusetts, Boston
- University of Notre Dame
- University of Utah
- Utah State University
- Weber State University
There are many other universities around the world that have taken a cue from U.S. schools and developed OpenCourseWare programs of their own. A few of the international universities that provide free course materials in English include:
The OpenCourseWare Consortium Advances Education
In 2005, MIT and a number of other higher education institutions formed the OpenCourseWare Consortium. The schools collaborated to advance education and extend the reach of OpenCourseWare. Their work has fostered many other OpenCourseWare projects. As of mid-2008, more than 200 higher education institutions and organizations had joined up with the OpenCourseWare Consortium to make education free for everyone.
Other Open Source Projects
OpenCourseWare isn't the only way to get a free education on the web. There are many other Open Source materials that are adapted under an open license and shared freely with the world. Some Open Source projects worth checking out include:
- Connexions - This Rice University non-profit publishes free educational materials for everyone--from children to college-level students. Materials include, textbooks, courses and other scholarly texts.
- Moodle - Moodle is a free Open Source course management system (CMS) designed to assist educators with creating online learning communities and courses.
- OpenOffice - This Open Source office software suite can do just about everything Microsoft Office can do.
- Project Gutenberg This Open Source project seeks to make information, books and other materials available to everyone.
- Wikiversity - Wikiversity hosts nearly 10,000 learning resources and projects for students of all levels.