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MIT’s goal: Reach 1 billion with open courseware

OpenCourseWare official says university must expand learning material to popular sites like YouTube

Ninety-four percent of MIT students say they have accessed OpenCourseWare.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s free course content has reached 100 million people worldwide, and as U.S. campuses experiment with open class material to varying degrees, MIT hopes to increase OpenCourseWare’s reach to 1 billion learners by 2021.

MIT officials last month announced the goal to boost open content usage tenfold. April marked the 10th anniversary of the ambitious project to publish free material used in MIT classes on the internet.

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Lecture notes, course readings, syllabi, and exams from more than 2,000 MIT courses from 33 majors are available on the OpenCourseWare website. The program received $3.7 million during the 2011 fiscal year — $1.5 million from MIT’s operating budget and the rest from donations, grants, and contributions from 2010.

The cream of the open educational crop, however, will become even more widely used, said Cecilia d’Oliveira, executive director of MIT’s OpenCouseWare initiative.

Raising awareness of MIT’s free lessons, readings, and lectures will require more partnerships with some of the web’s most visited sites, she said. OpenCourseWare officials plan on posting more content to YouTube and iTunes U – two sites that net 2 million lecture video views from MIT every month – and embedding videos in Wikipedia entries.

“We want to get content to people wherever they are. There’s still a huge number of people who have never heard of OCW,” said d’Oliveira, who was recognized in 2010 by the Qatar Foundation’s World Innovation Summit for Education for her work in global educational innovation. “We feel on of our major accomplishment is getting higher education as a whole to look at sharing their content as a new and successful strategy.”

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