OpenCourseWare: Open Source at MIT
MIT OCW and the other OCW projects have the potential to revolutionize the education world and bridge the digital divide. Millions of users have already gained access to educational materials that otherwise would have remained a world away.
In late 2000, the faculty-led Council on Educational Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) introduced a plan to open their course content to the rest of the world at no cost. MIT’s then-president, Charles Vest, was astounded, but immediately jumped on board. In a market-driven society, Vest assumed that the faculty would propose a for-profit, “MIT.com,” distance-learning venture, such as many institutions were implementing. Instead Vest got a proposed initiative more in concert with the booming open source movement. He commented, “It is typical of our faculty to come up with something as bold and innovative as this.
“Shocking, indeed. OpenCourseWare (OCW) is “an effort combining the openness of a public library with the academic intensity of a university,” and, in the words of Vest, it combines “world-class research and world-class teaching” with the World Wide Web. OCW is envisioned as a way to narrow the digital divide, to help educators in developing countries to ramp up their curricula, and to assist students and self-learners who could not afford to attend or meet the entrance requirements for an MIT education. Not only does MIT want the outside world to utilize its OpenCourseWare, but it also wants the revolution to spread and for other institutions around the world to adopt OCW for their own courses.