Opencourseware is a bold idea. Often, faculty members and academic leaders regard their primary course materials as the “crown jewels” of the instructional program—the essence of what they offer to students, the products that generate tuition revenues, and the substance of what they publish in textbooks. It can be challenging to persuade colleagues that publishing course materials freely and openly over the Internet is a good idea. To be sure, there are hurdles and costs to mounting an opencourseware effort, and people will raise legitimate concerns and harbor understandable reservations about it.
Yet, at MIT, we believe there is a strong case that the benefits of opencourseware far outweigh the costs and concerns, and we have demonstrated that the obstacles are manageable.
An opencourseware initiative aligns closely with the educational and public service missions of a non-profit institution of higher learning. More importantly, such an effort resonates deeply with faculty who have a passion for teaching and who have dedicated their lives to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge. This is why a key factor for success of an opencourseware initiative is to ensure that a core group of faculty stand squarely behind the effort and can seve as champions of the idea.
The principal components of the case for opencourseware are:
|Benefits for users and for global society
Opencourseware helps advance knowledge by providing resources for:
- Educators, who may draw on them for teaching purposes.
- Students and self-learners, for their personal knowledge development.
These resources may be particularly helpful for people in developing regions of the world.
|Benefits for the institution and its community
There are many practical benefits for the provider/publisher of an opencourseware, at all levels:
- Institution—Advances the institutional mission, stimulates innovation, and generates alumni and community pride.
- Academic departments—Showcases departments' offerings, enhances faculty and student recruitment, accelerates adoption of digital materials in teaching, and fosters collaboration among faculty.
- Faculty—Provides a new vehicle for contributing to faculty members' discipline, affords greater visibility for themselves and their work, provides a valuable service to faculty for enhancing the presentation of course materials, provides an information resource and embraces faculty values.
- Students—Helps plan their courses of study and provides supplementary study materials.
|Opencourseware cost components
Many factors influence the cost of an opencourseware initiative:
- Scope of the intended opencourseware publication.
- Pre-existing availability of course materials in publishable digital formats.
- Availability of other in-house services that may reduce the need for, or scope of, a separate opencourseware publishing organization.
- Capabilities of the existing technology infrastructure for managing opencourseware content and for hosting the distribution of that content over the Web.
|Answers to common concerns
||Reasonable people will raise legitimate concerns about launching an opencourseware effort. Proponents must be prepared to address reservations about such issues as cost, erosion of distance education revenues, drain on faculty time, intellectual property, and others.