Open-source advocates: Academia, industry must play nice

Open course material: The open-source stalwart

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), perhaps like no other American institution, has led the movement for openly available educational web resources.

That’s why professors and campus IT chiefs took note this year when Cecilia d’Oliveira, executive director of MIT’s OpenCouseWare initiative, said MIT would aim to boost the reach of its OCW project from 100 million students today to 1 billion in 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.

“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.

Campus IT officials and educational technology enthusiasts have convinced administrators that open courseware “is here to stay and that it’s a basic fundamental principle,” d’Oliveria said.

Funding for a new international partnership among open courseware advocates from across the globe was unveiled Sept. 3, when the OpenCourseWare Consortium, along with institutions including the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Universidad Politécnica Madrid in Spain, received financial support from the European Union’s Lifelong Learning program.

Officials from the OCW Consortium, a group of more than 250 universities and associations, said the grant money would be used to share open courseware best practices and educational sources and materials that bolster open online courses.

Mary Lou Forward, executive director of the OCW Consortium, said linking the resources of organizations and universities that strive to make content freely available on the web could raise open courseware’s profile, even outside of higher-education circles.

“The European OCW network has the potential to raise the importance of OCW in higher education very quickly,” she said.

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