September 22, 2002
8:38 AM   Subscribe

I just read that MIT will be offering free education via it's OpenCourseWare project (starting September 30th). This makes me very happy. Are there any other universities that offer similar services?
posted by Rattmouth (16 comments total)
cool! i can FINALLY get that urban planning degree i always wanted.

seriously though, this is a VERY cool idea. what i'm wondering (and granted i didn't read everything in the links) is if you can get a legit diploma after completing this course of study?
posted by aenemated at 9:31 AM on September 22, 2002

This is a very interesting and exciting project. Many other Universities have learning resources available to public, as well as distance education. The article says that:

"There will be no online degrees for sale, however. Instead, it will offer thousands of pages of information, available to anyone around the globe at no cost, as well as hours and hours of streaming video lectures, seminars and experiments."

MIT is definitely setting a good example for other institutions. This is something other Universities will be keeping an eye on... ;-)
posted by Stuart_R at 9:36 AM on September 22, 2002

There are already lots of lecture slides/ notes from different schools available online. I guess this just makes it official.
posted by murmur at 9:45 AM on September 22, 2002 can not get credit for these courses. But you will learn what you would learn being in the class, which is valuable in itself.

OpenUW at University of Washington is a similar program, though not quite at the same scale. It is online right now, though.
posted by Kevs at 10:47 AM on September 22, 2002

from what i understand this isn't designed to be an on-line degree program, just a repository of the tools used in their courses that anyone can use/read/study.

We've always drawn a distinction between the materials we teach and the actual teaching. The materials really aren't that important," Lerman said. "If you fail to make that distinction, you might as well send students a package of textbooks, telling them to read them for a year, and then asking them to give the university $30,000 for the experience."
posted by nyoki at 10:55 AM on September 22, 2002

there is/was arsdigita
posted by andrew cooke at 11:19 AM on September 22, 2002

To paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein: One may lead a student to knowledge but one cannot make him think.
posted by alumshubby at 11:34 AM on September 22, 2002

But you will learn what you would learn being in the class, which is valuable in itself.

Not really, Kevs. I went to MIT, and I can assure you that there is a lot more that you get out of a live class than what is in the lecture notes. Many classes that I took didn't have lecture notes that were typed up -- MIT can't put textbooks online unless the author and publisher agrees. Even if the author is an MIT professor, the publisher will not want to be bilked out of their money. And don't try and tell me that streaming video can replace live lecture. They tried doing that with the intro CS class and everyone I know who took it HATED it.

On the other hand, there were a fair number of classes I took which had excellent lecture notes, and having those online is a good way for people to learn the material if not the intuition you get in lecture.
posted by CommaTheWaterseller at 11:46 AM on September 22, 2002

Just because it's not *as* valuable doesn't mean it's not valuable, CommaTheWaterseller. There are those of us who are perfectly self- and knowledge- motivated to see this as a worthwhile endeavor, while not having the time to actually go to Boston and audit classes.
posted by hob at 12:33 PM on September 22, 2002

but just how valuable?

i think universities are so good largely because they bring so many people together at a pretty formative time in their lives. lectures and course notes are a small but integrated part of that process. when they are isolated i suspect they lose a lot of their power - how are these resource better than a good textbook?

lectures are a great way to get a large group of people thinking about the same thing at the same time. they get everyone (or at least, enough people to take notes) out of bed and they define a common basis from which students can use for work and dicussion. but for single individuals learning at home, those two advantages - the main advantages of lectures, imho - are irrelevant.

otoh, putting teaching materials on line is an excellent resource for other teachers. my partner recently started teaching the equivalent of astronomy 101 (an optional course to engineers) and she found it very useful to be able to work from existing material. seeing someone else's lecture notes shows just what is possible in the time frame and suggests possible ways to order material.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:57 PM on September 22, 2002

Fathom....previously discussed here
posted by Voyageman at 1:20 PM on September 22, 2002

I totally agree, hob. I think it's a great idea to put all this information out there and share it, but it's just not the same as taking a class. When I want to learn something, I can go and read a book on it, but as andrew cooke points out, the shared perspective aspect isn't available to the single self-learner. My point was not that it's not valuable, but that it's not the the same as what you would learn being in class.

I would suspect that there is some resistance on the part of faculty who had plans to turn their lecture notes into books. Some of my classes had preprints in which we were told to find errata, and some classes had a transcription assignment where everyone was required to transcribe and type up one lecture during the semester. I doubt that they will just up and quit their book projects. Does anyone know how much people make as textbook authors?
posted by CommaTheWaterseller at 1:30 PM on September 22, 2002

These types of online courses are more valuable to me (personally) because I have absolutely no money to put towards more education, and also I would not be able to devote any time during the day to going to classes and lectures. That's why I think these are a great idea, for people just like me. I would never recommend replacing the university system with anything strictly online (although I do like that it puts less emphasis on the degree system). It's even sort of silly to compare the two.
posted by Rattmouth at 1:31 PM on September 22, 2002

As a current MIT student, I'm doubtful these resources will be useful at all. Without a text or some lectures, most of the paper resources from classes have zero value, since they're not designed with independent use in mind. Google searches on specific topics and distance learning programs will still be better educational tools, since they are designed for a lack of interaction.

Further, I see no evidence of design for OCW happening in any classes I've been in over the last couple years. I actually find more frequently that the materials I access online for courses are available only for MIT IP addresses or require MIT Certificates. So much for accessibility.

comma: the intro CS class (6.001, which is taught in Scheme) is still video only, and there's still frustration over that. With 3 hours a week of recitation and tutorial though, students are still getting face-to-face instruction.
posted by whatzit at 3:59 PM on September 22, 2002

You have the option to buy the texts online from a used bookseller and then resell it when done.

In my 4 (ahem..6) years of college the only reason I went to class was to know what the professor wanted us to know so I would do well on tests so I could graduate. Learning was secondary. There is so much material, at least in a Bachelor Arts degree that is not covered that a self-taught class can allow for unlimited exploration in what interests you which is afterall the whole point.
posted by stbalbach at 5:08 PM on September 22, 2002

I've had the pleasure and opportunity to be involved in the Web development side of MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), and just from coding up all the sample exams, lecture notes, handouts and problem sets I've learned an amazing amount without even intending to. It is not just the usual course syllabus and general course information going up on these sites.

It is important to keep in mind that Sept. 30th is the "public beta" of the pilot site for the MIT OCW project. We are making our first batch of course sites available to the world, while we continue to work out the kinks and bugs in anticipation for the full launch a year from now.

For someone who is self-taught in Web development and research Like many others here), MIT OCW is not just a valuable tool for teachers and people already knowledgeable of the subject matter on the site, it's an incredible resource for everyone who has access to it -- from the very basic programming skills taught in "Introduction to Computers and Engineering Problem Solving," to the complex mathematics of nonlinear dynamics and chaos theory.

Definitely check out the site on Sept. 30 and let us know what you think.
posted by bkdelong at 9:19 AM on September 24, 2002

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