MIT’s goal: Reach 1 billion with open courseware

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.”


eCampus of the Month: At LSU, ed tech helps make learning ‘geaux’

LSU recently implemented a system for tracking student progress throughout their college careers.

Louisiana State University (LSU) has improved retention rates with software that warns students who are falling behind in class and encourages those who are excelling. The 28,000-student institution also makes technology—including laptops and digital cameras—available to students who might not otherwise have access to the equipment. But what really distinguishes the school is its commitment to staff IT training and support.

Campus leaders have combined an online knowledge base with face-to-face assistance to help faculty integrate technology into their teaching and research.

For understanding that technology is only as effective as the people who use it, we’ve chosen LSU as our “eCampus of the Month” in June—a designation for colleges and universities that are national leaders in using technology effectively in the classroom, library, dormitory, and beyond.

Here, Brian Voss, LSU’s vice chancellor for information technology, describes the school’s approach in more detail. (To nominate your own campus for this award, go to:

How does your campus use technology to advance student learning?

LSU uses Moodle as its learning management system. The Early Academic Referral System (EARS) is a program that has been developed by LSU and is incorporated into LSU’s Moodle to promote retention. EARS alerts students when they are not performing at level in the class, sends their information to the Center for Academic Success (CAS), and recommends that they receive assistance from CAS in the form of subject and study skills tutoring. EARS also sends encouraging messages to those students performing well in the class.

LSU recently built into its legacy student information system the Comprehensive Academic Tracking System (CATS), which tracks individual student progress toward degree completion. CATS tracks progress each semester by tracking critical requirements and provides the student feedback when s/he is not meeting those requirements.


Paying for commencement speakers should be banned New Jersey bill proposes

New Jersey lawmakers proposed a bill last week that would bar the payment for commencement speakers at public colleges or universities, reports the Huffington Post. The bill comes in the wake of controversy over the fact that Kean University paid John Legend $25,000 to serenade them at their commencement on May 12, and Rutgers University awarded Toni Morrison $30,000 for her speech at Rutgers graduation on May 15…

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Return of Islamic college raises new questions

The American Islamic College, closed since 2004 when the state revoked its operating authority, is expected early next month to win approval to reopen, reports the Chicago News Cooperative.  Supporters see the opening of the Chicago college, founded in 1981 in the Lakeview neighborhood, as an important step for Islamic instruction in the United States. But its detractors point to the college’s ties to a secretive and far-reaching international movement that has been accused of Islamism in some countries and of an overuse of non-immigrant work visas to hire foreign teachers in its schools in the United States…

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Contributions to college-savings 529 plans are rising sharply after falling during recession

Fear of rising college tuition is trumping fear of the stock market, reports the Los Angeles Times. Contributions to government-sponsored college-savings programs are rising sharply after sinking during the recession. The amount of money flowing into the programs, known as 529 plans, has surged 75% in the last two years but remains well below its 2006 peak, according to a recent study…

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Of all higher ed issues facing the Legislature, guns on campus shoots to top

Of all the problems facing the beleaguered Nevada System of Higher Education, which one seems so urgent that the Legislature would take it up? Asks the Las Vegas Sun. Perhaps it’s how to deal with deep budget cuts, which will be at least $200 million when you count the loss of federal stimulus money? Or access for underprivileged students? Or graduation rates? Or the division of resources between UNR and UNLV? Well, if you guessed any of those, you’d be wrong. The real pressing issue? We’ve got to make it easier for people to carry concealed firearms on campus…

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Feds offer more guidance on eReader accessibility in college

Arizona State University was among the schools that violated federal rules for eReader use.

Federal rules for how eReaders can legally be used by colleges and universities were clarified by the U.S. Education Department (ED) May 26 after advocates for blind and low-vision students criticized eReader pilot programs on several campuses in 2010.

ED’s latest list of guidelines, published online in a “frequently asked questions” format, reiterate that students who are blind “must be afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students” when campus officials launch initiatives that put eReaders in students’ hands.

More on eReader policy in higher education…

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Feds: Make eReaders accessible to all students

“Because technology is evolving, it has the capability to enhance the academic experience for everyone, especially students with disabilities,” the ED document said. “Innovation and equal access can go hand in hand.”

ED officials released a “dear colleague” letter in June 2010 after more than a year of complaints from low-sighted and blind students attending colleges that have piloted eReader programs.

The latest release says that rules outlined in the “dear colleague” letter also apply to elementary and secondary schools.

Colleges can provide books on tape, for example, for disabled students who can’t access emerging technologies like eReaders, which can have larger font for students with low vision.

The ED guidelines say that “the alternative media must provide access to the benefits of technology in an equally effective and equally integrated manner.”