MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to put all of the educational materials from its undergraduate- and graduate-level courses online, free and openly available to anyone, anywhere, by the end of the year 2007. MIT OpenCourseWare can be considered as a large-scale, web-based publication of MIT course materials. The project was announced in . This project is jointly funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and MIT. The initiative has encouraged a number of other institutions to make their course materials available as open educational resourcesTemplate:Fact.
As of November 2007, over 1800 courses were available online. While a few of these are limited to chronological reading lists and discussion topics, a majority provided homework problems and exams (often with solutions) and lecture notes. Some courses also include interactive web demonstrations in Java or Matlab, complete textbooks written by MIT professors, and streaming video lectures.
The concept for MIT OpenCourseWare grew out of the MIT Council on Education Technology, which was charged by MIT provost Robert Brown in 1999 with determining how MIT should position itself in the distance learning/e-learning environment. The MIT OpenCourseWare was then initiated to provide a new model for the dissemination of knowledge and collaboration among scholars around the world, and contributes to the “shared intellectual commons” in academia, which fosters collaboration across MIT and among other scholars. The project was spearheaded by Hal Abelson and other MIT Faculty.
The main challenge in implementing the OCW initiative had not been faculty resistance, but rather, the logistical challenges presented by determining ownership and obtaining publication permission for the massive amount of intellectual property items that are embedded in the course materials of MIT's faculty, in addition to the time and technical effort required to convert the educational materials to an online format. Copyright in MIT OpenCourseWare material remains with MIT, members of its faculty, or its students.
In September 2002, the MIT OpenCourseWare proof-of-concept pilot site opened to the public, offering 32 courses. In September 2003, MIT OpenCourseWare published its 500th course, including some courses with complete streaming video lectures. By September 2004, 900 MIT courses were available online. The response from MIT faculty and students has been very positive and MIT OpenCourseWare is seen as being consistent with MIT's mission (to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century) and is true to MIT's values of excellence, innovation, and leadership.
In 2005, MIT OpenCourseWare and other leading open educational resources projects formed the , which seeks to extend the reach and impact of open course materials, foster new open course materials and develop sustainable models for open course material publication.
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation also supported Utah State University's Center for Open and Sustainable Learning in the development of eduCommons, open source software that allows any organization to develop and manage their own open educational resources.
Video content for the courses are primarily in RealMedia format. Though the default videos provided are meant to be streamed from the MIT server, they are also provided in full for offline downloads.
By making their educational materials openly available, it remains to be seen whether MIT can demonstrate that by giving away such materials it does not threaten the value of an MIT education, or that there may be something in the educational process that cannot be captured by being in class. However, MIT's former president Charles Vest stated that the open course material could improve teaching methods, regardless. As stated on the website, OCW does not grant degrees or certificates, does not provide access to MIT faculty or materials, and may not reflect the entire content of a course.
As of June 2006, course material was available from many MIT departments. Links in the following list are directed to articles on the general subjects listed, not to articles on the MIT departments themselves.
- MIT OpenCourseWare — official site; , versions
- Learn for free online — BBC News, Sept 2002
- Wired: MIT Everywhere
- Opencourseware How To — designed to share the experience, key decisions, and lessons learned that led to the implementation of MIT's OpenCourseWare project.
- Open Courseware Consortium
- Open Course Portal ― A portal site for Open Course Ware, Free Journal, Paper, and eBook.
- Wired news article