Keeping the Magic: Open Course Ware

My next #ioe12 module is on Open Course Ware – a term applied to course materials created by Institutions and shared freely via the internet. Although some higher education institutions had been releasing videos and content online since the 1990s it was the MITs launch of their materials that really brought the practice to the masses and began use of the term.

The video resource from the module is the MIT press conference held on April 4, 2001 when MIT released their first instalment of OpenCourseWare. I can actually remember hearing about this at the time (quite scary that it’s now over 11 years old!) MIT courses were the first to be offered using the open courseware model and I’ve used them as an exemplar example many times when presenting on Creative Commons. MIT committed itself to delivering open courses for 10 years in an innovative way that widens access and improved education.

The MIT OCW project uses Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license and the program was originally funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and MIT. They now use more video lectures and many video and audio files are also available from iTunes U.

It is really refreshing to hear senior people on the committee talk about how their concerns were not about money but about quality of the materials delivered and whether MIT would be able to support the programme. They are very keen to state that for MIT it is not about ‘selling courses for profit’ but about how you disseminate and create human knowledge – that fundamental value aligned well with distributing open course ware.

Right now, when education seems to be increasingly about budgets and bank notes, this back-to-basics approach in education reminds me of why I’ve always been interested in education. As one of the panel explains: distributing raw material makes you ask some big questions – “what happens in the classroom now?” Hopefully the answer is “that is still where the magic happens.” OCW combines the traditional openness of education and the ability of the Web to make resources available to many. For MIT it was not about providing a course but about delivering materials on the Web. The plan was that allowing the resources to be delivered in this way would encourage more collaboration. Also by providing a window into MIT it would result in more people wanting to enroll at MIT.

I’m interested in open course ware from a two different angles – firstly the open angle, secondly the ‘flipping lectures on their head’ pedagodgy idea. I’ve touched on this in some of the amplified event work I’ve carried out and when talking about lecture capture software (such as Ponopto). This is the idea that you use technologies such as video to record lectures and talks and use these as a precursor for a seminar – in which you actually work together, rather than sitting and watching someone talk. Because when you get together in the classroom, this should be where the magic happens…

OER Commons Celebrates First Annual Open Education Week, March 5-10, 2012


2 thoughts on “Keeping the Magic: Open Course Ware

  1. Thank you for your post, I enjoyed reading it and already started watching the MIT Press Conference from 11 years ago!
    Although the MIT CourseWare Initiative is certainly about widening access and improving the quality of the digital teaching and learning material, however, it is also used (and nothing wrong with that) as an advertisement tool directed towards future students (here’s the cost factor) and people are thinking hard about “cost-recovery” through assessment and certification with the new MITx.


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