Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Inside Higher Ed | The next level of Open Source

The Next Level of Open Source
In 2001, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology started placing materials for its courses online — and making them available for anyone to use, at no cost. OpenCourseWare, which currently contains materials for 1,400 courses, has been a huge success, and thousands of people use the MIT materials each day.

The MIT project and others like it — such as Connexions, at Rice University — are based on the model of putting curricular materials online, but not the actual courses (although a few professors at MIT, Rice and elsewhere have put videos of their lectures online).

On Tuesday, Yale University announced that it would be starting a version of an open access online tool for those seeking to gain from its courses. But the basis of the Yale effort will be video of actual courses — every lecture of the course, to be combined with selected class materials. The money behind the Yale effort is coming from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which was an early backer of MIT’s project, and which sees the Yale project as a way to take the open course idea to the next level.

“We want to add another dimension to open courseware,” said Catherine Casserly, a program officer at Hewlett. She said that video components used at MIT and elsewhere have been very popular with people all over the world. “We’re trying to make that bridge” to the audience for high quality American education, she said. Casserly said that Yale’s initiative — starting with seven courses this year, with plans to grow quickly — was the first open courseware effort based on lecture videos. “We hope to see this spread to other universities,” she said.

Richard Baraniuk, founder of Connexions, said he viewed Yale’s announcement as “a very positive development.” While projects at Rice and MIT “have been opening up access to educational materials and syllabi, the Yale project is opening up access to even more of the student experience, namely the in-class lecture environment,” he said...

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