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Biology, linguistics to lead test phase of OpenCourseWare

The Department of Biology and Department of Linguistics and Philosophy will play lead roles with web sites for up to 10 courses apiece in a test phase of OpenCourseWare, a program that will make MIT course materials available on the World Wide Web free of charge.

Six other web sites will be created for representative subjects in the electrical engineering and computer science, ocean engineering, physics, and urban studies and planning departments, plus the Speech Communication Group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics and the Sloan School of Management.

Sites in the test phase should be up and running by early spring.

"The test phase with these departments is just a small, first step in moving OpenCourseWare towards its goal of making materials from virtually every MIT department available on the web," said Professor Steven R. Lerman of civil and environmental engineering, chair of the OpenCourseWare (OCW) interim management board, in making the announcement on Tuesday. "We will use what we learn from this test project to inform the evolution of the entire initiative."

The OCW transition project team, headed by consultant Kyung Han and Laura F. Koller of the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives (CECI), will work with the departments on developing operations and working relationships.

Lerman, who is also director of CECI, said at the faculty meeting last Wednesday that participants in the test phase would be chosen shortly. "We're looking for diversity in discipline," said Lerman, noting that faculty who presently use web sites and those who don't will participate.

He said a "worldwide search" for an executive director was under way. The board envisions a decentralized structure for the OCW organization, with the executive director and his or her staff working with people in individual departments who assume "day to day" responsibilities, he said. This would allow OCW to be "more nimble and responsive to faculty needs," Lerman said.

He said he expected interviews with candidates for the executive director's position to be completed next month and a final decision to be made by the end of the year. The executive director will recruit the remaining staff members.

Lerman said the interim board would play a role in the design phase "to the point where it can he handed off" to the executive director early next year. Besides Lerman, members of the board are Professor Dick K.P. Yue, associate dean of engineering; Professor Marc A. Kastner, head of physics; M.S. Vijay Kumar, director of academic computing for Information Systems; and Director of Libraries Ann J. Wolpert.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 24, 2001.

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