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Plan evokes worldwide response

Hundreds of people from all over the world, including Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg, sent e-mails to the News Office to express enthusiastic approval of MIT's pioneering OpenCourseWare program after last week's announcement.

Messages came from as far away as Australia, Nigeria, South Africa and India, as well as many places in the North America.

A recurring theme was gratitude to MIT for making many of its educational resources avaiable to everyone, regardless of financial means or geographical location or time of day. Many also hailed the move with excitement as another welcome step in the development of the Internet as a medium for sharing and spreading knowledge.

Below is a sampling of messages received over a three-day period last week.

"I am a Nigerian student who has dreamt all his life of studying in MIT. Thanks a lot for making this dream come true, for if I can't come to MIT, MIT has now come to me."

"What I saw from your initiative is the possibility of a major global upgrade of education -- professors in the US and around the whole world, including those in little Uganda where I am from, will be inspired and motivated to be on par with MIT standards. The students will demand it because they will have access to high-end quality education, giving them opportunities for a better life and better access to other opportunities."

"I write this letter to convey my best wishes for the success of your OpenCourseWare program. I am resident in India, and would have given anything to have had access to such a facility when I was a student. I used to be frustrated when I wanted to learn and could not afford to buy books or simply did not have access to such books in local book shops."

"Knowledge should be free for those who want it. In the long run, it will speed up the progress of mankind.

"This is the most important news I have read in a long time. You have changed the world with one bold move."

"Making MIT course material available freely on the web provides proof of the forward-thinking ability of the MIT administration. As a vehicle for furthering mankind's collective knowledge, this is almost on par with the initial development of the public library."

"Congratulations on your OpenCourseWare initiative. You set an example for the world. I can't wait to access your materials for the improvement of my mind. Strength to your arm!" (Johannesburg, South Africa)

"What an extraordinary idea! I'm simply in awe of your ambitious initiative. That it comes from a private university which could arguably maintain that it does not have the same obligation to the public as a state university is even more striking." (Seattle).

"As a director of a nonprofit organization which seeks to give women and girls the tools they need to reap the benefits of digital technology, I applaud you! This is a tremendous idea whose time has come." (Toronto)

"In a time when America is blamed for so much that is meretricious or downright bad, it is truly wonderful to have a gesture like MIT's rise above the tawdry. Personally, I intend to take advantage of it in my approaching old age!" (Melbourne Australia)

"As an engineering student, I've used study materials already available on the MIT web site many times. I salute MIT for taking this important step for sharing knowledge that will greatly benefit students like me all over the developing world." (Sri Lanka)

"Congratulations and thank you for your forward thinking and generosity in providing the world with the opportunity to participate in your courses. By using the Internet as the medium for knowledge dissemination, MIT has utilized the technology as it was originally developed and intended: an open, free and borderless community promoting freedom of ideas and thought." (Arlington, VA)

"I run an Internet-connected resources centre in Ghana. If you succeed, and I hope you do, we will pioneer remote MIT classrooms in our cafes. I can't believe it. This is nothing short of magic. We hope and pray you succeed."

"I think this is a fabulous gift to give to the world. I so look forward to exploring this once OCW has been launched. I have such a strong desire to continue learning but do not have the flexible schedule that a commitment to a regular class-time requires. In addition, there are many subjects I'd like to explore, but not necessarily for degree-seeking purposes."

"MIT's decision to make all of your course materials freely available on the web is the best example of academic leadership that I have seen in many years. You took the high road while everybody else was looking at market potential. Kudos!" (New Brunswick, NJ)

"I have to tell you how moved and incredibly impressed I am with what you are doing. Putting your course information on the Web and allowing free access is taking both the Web and education to their highest and best uses. Those who want to learn but have no chance of ever being admitted to (or affording) MIT will be able to do so... You have vaulted far beyond other first-class educational institutions and set a new standard for philanthropy for us all... As for me, I had no heirs -- until now! If there's anything left when I'm done, it's going to be yours for being the first to attempt what my vision has been since I first went on line."

"This is very good news for many people like me. I'm wiriting from Ecuador. People from undeveloped countries like this have no easy access to the research and the topics used by profesors at universities like MIT. I'm sure this fact will influence the knowlege of many needed people around the world." (Quito, Ecuador)

"I can't believe your institution is doing the world this fantastic favor. I am waiting for the release of the courseware. Wow... I am so excited! (Jacksonville, FL)

"In my opinion, this is as profound as the US Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. You have opened the doors for everyone to pursue their dreams. You have fundamentally changed the educational landscape of our world. Let's hope this knowledge is put to good use."

"It is disheartening to me to see young people agonize over which college might accept them, when there is simply not room everywhere for everyone. I believe your action will contribute to a world in which people do not feel limited by their geographical or personal circumstances."

"Let me just congratulate you and your university for the initiative OpenCourseWare of opening your knowledge to the world. I must say that for me it is only a littlesurprise that MIT takes such original initiative, because MIT has already showed in the past its global view of the world and of human knowledge. I am convinced that the majority of university leaders and politiciens have not yet realized what is the real potential of the Internet. But what is now important is that MIT has taken such aninitiative and has showed the way for others that will follow. I am also sure that this initiative will not reduce the number of your students, but on the contrary increase it. And it will even give more prestige to your institution. Thank you very much in the name of mankind." (Brussels, Belgium)

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 11, 2001.

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