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OCW report extols progress

MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) has flourished in line with the faculty's original vision for it, Steven Lerman, professor of civil and environmental engineering, told the faculty at its monthly meeting Sept. 15. Lerman, who is chair of the OCW faculty advisory committee, and Anne Margulies, executive director of OCW, gave a glowing update on the initiative, which publishes MIT course materials for free on the Internet.

OCW has grown in size and in impact, they reported. In 2002, material for 50 courses was available at the OCW site; on Sept. 17, 2004, materials for 900 courses were available. Currently, the OCW site receives an average of 11,000 visitors daily and 350,000 each month. Visitors include educators and self-learners from the U.S. and around the world and MIT students checking out courses during registration.

"OCW is a 'two-fer:' it helps faculty organize their course materials, and it helps us communicate with each other. I can see how prerequisites I listed are taught. It's also a way to further MIT's mission; embrace faculty values of teaching, sharing best practices and contributing to our fields. Beyond that, OCW counters the privatization of knowledge; it champions openness," said Lerman, who also serves as director of the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives.

Margulies emphasized OCW's success in the global educational marketplace. The site has received more than 20,000 e-mails; its fans write from all over the world. "We've heard from people in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Sudan. Imagine what it means that they find our site even with a civil war going on," she said.

In response to a question from Paul Gray on the cost and sustainability of OCW, Margulies said, "My job is to drive down the cost so it's sustainable here and drive the value up so other universities can replicate what we're doing."

Margulies noted that the original projections on OCW — 10 years and $100 million — have been adjusted. "Now, we project it will take seven years and cost less than $40 million. Our current estimate is that OCW will cost about $5 million a year to sustain," she said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 22, 2004 (download PDF).

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