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August 27, 2003

Open Courseware

Here's a terrific piece in Wired about MIT's OpenCourseware initiative and how it's affecting learning worldwide.  It's open-source for education.  MIT knows that information is not education - by giving away its courseware they are not uindermining the value of an MIT education.  What they are doing is increasing their influence and prestige, and furthering the goals of educating people everywhere.  It's "make the pie bigger" thinking at its best. 

When MIT announced to the world in April 2001 that it would be posting the content of some 2,000 classes on the Web, it hoped the program - dubbed OpenCourseWare - would spur a worldwide movement among educators to share knowledge and improve teaching methods. ... At a time when most enterprises were racing to profit from the Internet and universities were peddling every conceivable variant of distance learning, here was the pinnacle of technology and science education ready to give it away.

In the world of just-in-time training and corporate "universities", how will the mega-expensive Ivy League schools differentiate sufficiently from the disrputive alternatives?  In the words of Harvard's Clay Christensen, insitutions like MIT can become the "Intel Inside" of their educational areas.  Primary sources, original research and knowledge creation have always been the hallmarks of top-level schools.  Now, having immediate and relevant "reach" to individuals and educational institutions worldwide is becoming part of the currency that measures value in the knowledge economy.  Says program director Ann Margulies:

"Part of our stated mission is to be more than just a project at MIT," says Margulies, "to evolve into a movement, to help other universities develop a model."

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