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A decade of OCW benefits: Bringing knowledge to the street

Using OCW in support of community development.
Harry Crissy
Harry Crissy
Photo courtesy of Harry Crissy

Since MIT OpenCourseWare was launched in 2001, millions of people from around the world have accessed OCW content to further their education. This series of occasional articles examines the ways in which OCW is making a difference in the lives of its users.

As an expert in community development in South Carolina, Harry Crissy does much of his job on his feet. By combining his shoe-leather commitment to improving underserved areas with OCW courses in systems analysis, Crissy has helped entrepreneurs get projects off the ground and collaborated to transform a vacant building into a facility for a minority-based technical school’s culinary program.

OCW has “absolutely changed my approach to my current work. I’m in the middle of something that will have a positive impact,” says Crissy, who works with the Clemson University Institute for Economic and Community Development in Charleston, S.C.. “Without question, OCW courses have helped me in my professional life.”

Two OCW courses — System Dynamics for Business Policy and System Dynamics Self Study — and the freedom to explore related materials and interests have been “transformational in my approach to problems,” he says. He is looking into Probabilistic Systems Analysis and Applied Probability, and he continues to use OCW materials.

Systems analysis hits the streets

Crissy’s typical workday includes both individual and academic research, and he often functions simultaneously as a teacher and mentor, an agent for the Clemson institute, and as a student of systems analysis.

Bringing undergraduate and graduate students along whenever possible, Crissy starts on foot. He goes into a community, gathers data to gain perspective and conducts interviews and door–to-door surveys.

He later facilitates public workshops that allow participants to weigh options and design a way forward. “We’re using exercises in strategic management to solicit usable input. We get good results, but I think we can do better. I’m working on some new strategies to address this,” he says.

Another aspect of Crissy’s job involves going into deeply compromised neighborhoods and offering lessons in computer skills. In one project, computers being cycled out of use go to community labs for free use by adults and young people.

A self-learner, supporter and fan

Crissy had been familiar with the OCW site since his days as a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University. Today, he supports OCW though donations during OCW's spring and fall fundraising campaigns in recognition of the “amazing resource” it has been in his professional and personal development.

“I’m the ultimate nerd. I spend a lot of my spare time on material that I’ve gained directly or indirectly from OCW,” he says.

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