World universities offer free online education
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: By the end of this year, the contents of all 1,800 courses taught at the world’s leading universities will be available online to anyone, anywhere in the world. Learners will not have to register for classes, everyone will be accepted, and it will be free.
According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, the OpenCourseWare movement, began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2002 and has now spread to 120 universities worldwide. Anyone with an Internet connection and a desire to learn can benefit.
Intended as an act of “intellectual philanthropy,” OpenCourseWare (OCW) provides free access to course materials such as syllabi, video or audio lectures, notes, homework assignments and illustrations. The MIT site () along with companion sites that translate the material into other languages, now average about 1.4 million visits per month from learners “in every single country on the planet.”
According to the CSM report, “The sheer volume and variety of the educational materials being released by MIT and its OCW collaborators is nothing less than stunning … What OCW is not, its supporters agree, is a substitute for attending a university. For one thing, OCW learners aren’t able to receive feedback from a professor - or to discuss the course with fellow students. A college education is ‘really the total package of students interacting with other students, forming networks, interacting with faculty, and that whole environment of being associated with the school,’ says James Yager at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He oversees the OCW program there. His school of public health now offers nearly 40 of its most popular courses for free via OCW. The school’s goal is to put 90 to 100 of its 200 or so core courses online within the next year or so.”
Besides MIT, Tufts, and Johns Hopkins, the OCW consortium () in the United States includes among its members Michigan State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Utah State. Internationally, members include groups of universities in China, Japan, and Spain. So far MIT has published 1,550 of its courses for OCW and plans to get the rest online by the end of this year. The materials for each course vary. Full videos of lectures, one of the most popular features, are available for only 26 courses, about 1,000 hours of video in all. The programme relies on financial support from foundations, individuals, and MIT itself. The OCW effort is part of a wide range of dynamic educational content emerging on the Internet, says Dan Colman, associate dean and director of Stanford University’s continuing studies programme and host of the website (), which highlights what’s happening in Web-based education, with an emphasis on podcasts. However, lab work, which usually requires close hands-on collaboration between an instructor and students, remains problematic online.