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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For exposure, universities put courses on the web

Until recently, if you wanted to take Professor Rebecca Henderson’s course in advanced strategy to understand the long-term roots of why some companies are unusually successful, you needed to be a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Ms. Henderson teaches at the Sloan School of Management. Admission to the Sloan School is extremely selective, and tuition fees are over $50,000 a year. For the past two years, though, anyone with an Internet connection can follow Ms. Henderson’s lectures online, where the lecture notes and course assignments are available free through M.I.T. OpenCourseWare, reports the New York Times. Why give away something with such a high market value?

“I put the course up because the president of M.I.T. asked us to,” said Ms. Henderson. “My deep belief is that as academics we have a duty to disperse our ideas as far and as freely as possible.”

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Despite rumors, MIT OpenCourseWare insists ‘no paywall’

Contrary to erroneous reports, MIT says it has no plans to implement a paywall for its free open courseware, ReadWriteWeb reports. “That is simply not under consideration,” says Steve Carson, MIT OpenCourseWare’s external relations director. After all, there are some 250 sites that mirror MIT OpenCourseWare, and more than 10 million copies of course packages have been downloaded. The information is already out there. And the mission of the program remains the same: “open sharing of MIT teaching materials with educators, students, and self-learners around the world.” Although there is no paywall in store for the program, Carson does say the project has to be mindful of budgetary issues. The program cost $3.7 million to run last year. The site now features a prominent “Donate Now” button. Carson says that small donations—around the $50 level—comprised about $220,000 in the program’s revenues last year, and the program hopes to hit $500,000 this fiscal year. Likening MIT OpenCourseWare to the “information for public good” services of NPR and PBS, Carson says that the program will seek funding from both charitable organizations, as well as corporate underwriters. Currently the program is considering advertising on the web site, something Carson thinks will appeal to organizations who want to be in front of a global audience of well-educated people…

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