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Reflections on a decade of open sharing: A global movement

The OCW Consortium global meeting in Santander, Spain, in May 2007.
The OCW Consortium global meeting in Santander, Spain, in May 2007.
Photo courtesy of Sandra M. Pereira Pena

MIT will mark the 10-year anniversary of the announcement of OpenCourseWare in April 2011. To prepare for this milestone, the OCW staff has asked a number of MIT community members who've been involved in the project to reflect on its past and look to what lies ahead. In this installment of an occasional series, Stephen Carson, OCW external relations director and president of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, discusses the global OCW movement.

I have been fortunate to have been very involved in the development of the global OpenCourseWare movement in the past 10 years. In the early period of the MIT OpenCourseWare program, I worked informally with many of the universities that — inspired by the mission to share educational content openly — joined MIT in creating OpenCourseWare sites of their own. Later, as these schools organized, I supported the formation of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, and since the Consortium incorporated in 2008 I have had the privilege of serving as the organization's president.

Each time I attend the Consortium annual meeting, which draws together leaders from OpenCourseWare programs around the world, I am struck anew by the breadth and depth of the movement MIT's program helped to inspire, a movement that is often not visible to the MIT community. More than 200 universities participate in the activities of the Consortium, schools that have collectively published more than 14,000 courses, including the 2,000 from MIT. While MIT OpenCourseWare is the single largest OCW site in the world, we are increasingly dwarfed by the materials published by other universities.

The Consortium membership is diverse and truly global, with regional consortia in Africa, China, France, Japan, Korea, Latin America, Taiwan, Turkey, Spain and Vietnam. In total, OCW Consortium members are drawn from 45 countries and territories. The universities of the OCW Consortium have also been joined by dozens of other organizations including professional associations, NGOs, nonprofits and for-profits which all support the Consortium's mission of sharing educational materials widely and freely. The movement also goes beyond the Consortium's membership, with universities such as Harvard, Yale and Stanford launching similar projects.

The other universities in the Consortium bring unique new approaches to the open publication of course materials. Whether the innovative MIMA search system on the University of Tokyo OpenCourseWare site, or the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health OCW's image repository, or the interactive components of the Open University (UK)'s OpenLearn site, these innovations continue to push the staff of MIT OpenCourseWare to reimagine what the program can be.

Every year brings new announcements, such as the OpenCourseWare program in Turkey that is now receiving $1 million of support from that country's Ministry of Education; or how the Indonesian higher education system will leverage the OCW model to share the expertise scattered across the 750 universities in the archipelago; or the efforts of the Obama administration to use OpenCourseWare models in support of our country's community colleges.

This spring presents a unique opportunity for the MIT community to experience the global movement firsthand, as for the first time, the OCW Consortium will hold its annual conference on the MIT campus May 4-6. The Consortium expects to welcome 300 participants from OpenCourseWare programs and related projects to celebrate 10 years of OpenCourseWare and look forward to the next 10 years. Learn more about the conference on the OCW Consortium Website.

This April marks the 10th anniversary of the MIT OpenCourseWare program, but this spring also marks 10 years of a vibrant global movement that has openly shared educational materials spanning academic levels, languages and cultures. While here at MIT we can be proud of what has been accomplished through MIT OpenCourseWare, we should also recognize and congratulate the other members of the OCW community on their remarkable contributions to this global undertaking.

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