MIT’s goal: Reach 1 billion with open courseware

“The pressure comes up when there’s a very positive response [to open content],” she said. “Then institutions want to climb on board.”

Fear that MIT’s precedence for offering free access to a top-rate education would be financially devastating for higher education were allayed after a 2010 Brigham Young University (BYU) study detailed open courseware’s recruiting potential.

Conducted by BYU’s Director of Independent Study Justin Johansen charged that open courseware won’t boost campus bottom lines, but the free web-based model isn’t the profit-sapping giveaway many have painted it to be.

BYU has six open classes—three college-level and three high school courses—that drew almost 14,000 web page visits over a four-month span, generating 445 paid enrollments at BYU.

The price to make the classes available ranged from $284 to $1,172 per course, according to Johansen’s study, meaning BYU’s open courseware had a 3.1-percent profit margin.

There are about 9,000 open courses available on the web—a generous educational technology offering not overlooked by incoming freshmen, according to an MIT analysis.

More than half of MIT freshmen said they were aware of the open content, according to the university, and 94 percent said they have accessed the online material.

“We did this not for our own benefit, but for the rest of the world,” d’Oliveria said. “[The OCW initiative] is consistent with the mission of an academic institution. … It’s what do we do: disseminate knowledge and preserve knowledge.”

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