Opening the World's Knowledge: Speaks with Tufts University

Mar 23, 2011

In the pursuit of increasing access to education, has recently launched an interview series with OpenCourseWare (OCW) providers around the world. These institutions are at the forefront of the open education movement, which provides free educational resources to anyone with an Internet connection. Read on to learn about OCW opportunities at Tufts University from Mary Y. Lee, Associate Provost, Susan Albright, Director of Educational Technologies and Robbin Smith, OCW Editor.

By Megan Driscoll

Tufts University Tufts University was one of the early providers of OpenCourseWare. When did you launch your site, and what motivated you to join the OCW Consortium?

Tufts University: We have engaged in open sharing initiatives since the 1980s. As a charter and sustaining member of the international OpenCourseWare Consortium, Tufts' commitment to and investment in OCW reflect its longstanding mission to share its knowledge. In keeping with that mission, Tufts OCW launched in June 2005 as one of MIT's first partners, and since then has strongly supported the development of the Consortium. Is there a particular educational philosophy that drives your participation in open education?

TU: As our students learn how to engage with the world as active citizens, we want them to have full access to the world's knowledge. So too are we concerned for learners throughout the world. As a premier university with a particular commitment to internationalism, active citizenship and leadership in the health sciences and environment, Tufts University strives to help support the learning efforts of individuals wherever they reside. It's not just open dissemination of information, but also collaborative development with partners in the developing world on pressing issues such as improving global health that are fundamental to Tufts' mission. What percentage of Tufts' course materials have made it onto your OCW website and what types of materials do you offer - course syllabi, exams, video or audio lectures. . . ?

TU: Tufts OCW offers a continually growing variety and amount of materials. A substantial portion of our material is drawn from the health sciences, particularly human medicine and veterinary medicine. Types of content include lectures (in HTML or PDF), exams and quizzes, syllabi, PowerPoint presentations, student work and video tutorials, as well as other supplementary materials. Our OCW site is an outgrowth of our own Tufts Knowledge Management System (TUSK) used by our health sciences schools; therefore our site is currently heavier in health sciences content. What are the demographics of your primary users? Do you track their countries of origin, age group or other information, and can you share this data?

TU: We have had visits from 218 countries and territories, including areas as diverse as Swaziland, Brunei, Slovenia and Yemen. The top ten countries visiting the website in 2010 were the United States, Philippines, United Kingdom, India, Canada, Australia, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Germany. The top ten cities visiting us in 2010 were Manila, New York, London, Los Angeles, Kuala Lumpur, Cebu, Bangkok, Sydney, Chicago and Boston.

Our 2010 Pop-Up Survey results, filled out by 1,026 users, show that 15.5 percent described themselves as faculty, 25.0 percent as students, 46.1 percent as self-learners and 5.7 percent as other, with 7.7 percent not responding. Top reasons for coming to the site indicated by users were for personal learning, planning a course of study, complementing a course being taken, keeping current in the field and teaching preparation. You're currently gearing up to co-host OCWC Global 2011, a conference celebrating ten years of the OCW project, with MIT and UMass Boston. Can you tell our readers more about the conference?

TU: Along with MIT OCW and University of Massachusetts-Boston, Tufts OCW is on the planning committee for the OpenCourseWare Consortium Global Meeting. OCWC Global 2011 will be held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from May 4-6. (Pre-conference workshops are on May 3.) The conference is built around three tracks: The impact of OCW, producing OCW and next generation 'open' learning. Will you be adding any new features or materials to your OCW site in honor of the ten year anniversary?

TU: Tufts OCW is continually adding and refining materials on the site. The site itself, along with our Open Educational Resources (OER) site, will be updated this year to accommodate the addition of several other resources especially targeted at educators and self-learners. Materials will help teachers design their courses, including integrating technology, and help clinicians educate trainees and patients.

Recently we added an interdisciplinary course entitled 'One Health' and we'll soon be adding 'Water and Diplomacy.' These unusual courses are part of the University Seminar program, designed to enhance the interface between research and teaching, develop new research questions through trans-disciplinary approaches to global issues and foster innovative teaching and learning methods. Are there any other current or in-development initiatives at Tufts to promote open education?

TU: Tufts University is a leader in the Open Educational Resources movement, bringing access to educational content, tools and infrastructure to many audiences. Tufts University's leadership in the OER movement includes health sciences, social sciences and humanities resources. Since the 1990s, Tufts has been a global leader in best practices for using technology to support health sciences education and training. Tufts OER represent rich resources for self-learners, patients, parents, students and professionals. Visit our OER website to see examples of Tufts' major OER that span several disciplines. Finally, I'd like to offer you the opportunity to share anything you'd like about Tufts' OCW program.

TU: Tufts OCW seeks to eliminate borders and geographic distance as obstacles to the instantaneous exchange of knowledge and new ideas. OCW offers all course materials free to everyone with online access. As a charter and sustaining member of the international OpenCourseWare Consortium, Tufts' commitment and investment in OCW reflects its institutional mission and values.

Tufts' open publishing course content from medicine, veterinary and dental medicine, nutrition and other areas reflects the University's strength in the life sciences and its willingness to share this strength with others. The University's multidisciplinary approach, international perspective and underlying ethic of service to its local land national and international communities provides a unique resource for learners and teachers (Lee, Mary Y. et al).

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