Monday, February 26, 2007

Democratizing Education

Here's an article from the WSJ last week discussing how many major universities are now putting many of their course online, for free. These course are commonly referred to as OpenCourseWare.

Per the WSJ:
Following the lead of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other highly competitive schools, more institutions are posting online everything from lecture notes to sample tests, and even making audio and video files of actual lectures publicly available. The sites attract anywhere from thousands to more than one million unique visitors each month.
MIT's pioneering "OpenCourseWare" program, which was launched in 2003, posts the syllabus and class notes for more than 1,500 courses online for anyone who wants them. By this November, it aims to publish materials from virtually all 1,800 of its courses across all its schools.

I think this is absolutely fantastic. I have always thought, and often remarked that one can get just as good of an education at a local public library as at any renowned institution - just with a little more will and determination. Now with OpenCourseWare, there is no need even to go to the library. You can take classes on line, for free. In fact, I know many people that are enrolled in schools where they don't usually go to class, but rather read the PowerPoint and web lectures which are e-mailed to them by their professors. The only difference between them and what you can do with this OpenCourseWare is that they are paying a small fortune, and you don't have to. Obviously taking an OpenCourseWare class is not exactly like attending the school, and you get no recognized credit for your work, but you are able to absorb the exact same knowledge and information as the privileged students at these renowned institutions. I say, terrific.

I have been to several of the websites, cited in the article, and below are links to the two which I find most user-friendly: