Open courseware on every campus by 2016?

Nine in 10 MIT undergraduates say they use open courseware.

Just as colleges and universities have adopted online classes over the past decade, students can expect free open courseware of some kind at every campus in the U.S. in the next five years, a University of California-Irvine official said during a recent forum on open courseware.

Open textbook advocates from the publishing industry, online learning organizations, and academia met at the UC Irvine campus Jan. 26 to discuss trends in free course material and how making textbooks, lectures, and other course materials available online free of charge has changed higher education.

Gary Matkin, dean of distance education and continuing learning at UC Irvine—which has one of the country’s premiere open courseware sites—predicted that open courseware would become standard at small community colleges and research universities alike.

Not every institution will have a robust collection of academic material like MIT’s trailblazing OpenCourseWare program, Matkin said. Some colleges will provide textbooks freely available on the web, while others will post academic videos on YouTube for anyone to watch.

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“Everybody’s going to have to have some open material, just as they have libraries,” he said.

Students’ expectations for information to be available at no cost and faculty’s fading resistance to the open courseware model, Matkin said, has made free college class material inevitable.

“Open textbooks are really becoming an imperative,” he said, adding that the federal government’s $2 billion grant program aimed at creating more sharable educational material is further proof that open courseware has been accepted as a legitimate educational model. “There’s no stopping this movement. It’s happening.”

Contributing to free educational websites has already taken hold at major universities worldwide.

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