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MIT's OpenCourseWare Program

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the let-a-thousand-scholars-bloom dept.

Education 167

Kent Simon writes "Many people may not know that MIT has initiated OpenCourseWare, an initiative to share all of their educational resources with the public. This generous act is intended (in classical MIT style) to make knowledge free, open, and available. It's a great resource for people looking to improve their knowledge of our world. OpenCourseWare should prove exceptionally beneficial to those who may not be able to afford the quality of education offered at a school like MIT. Here's a link to all currently available courses. It is expected that by the end of the year every course offered at MIT will be available on the OpenCourseWare site, including lecture notes, homework assignments, and exams. OpenCourseWare is not offered to replace collegiate education, but rather to spread knowledge freely."

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167 comments

Other Free Courses/courseware? (5, Informative)

lecithin (745575) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533294)

Here is a link for HP's free classes:

http://h30187.www3.hp.com/ [hp.com]

Who has more?

Strang's linear algebra (3, Informative)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533392)

The most amazing thing is Gilbert Strang's linear algebra course. He is a genius lecturer

HP != MIT (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17533530)

The following analogy is apt.

HP:MIT :: fat-penguin:F-22

That MIT is providing essentially free knowledge is excellent news. Many intelligent people engage in self-study on various topics and need challenging homework assignments with solutions. Doing exercise problems without solutions means that you could, possibly, learn the material incorrectly and never actually realize your misunderstanding. After all, quantum mechanics is not intuitive.

Your misunderstanding could lead to a malfunctioning nuclear bomb. You want to do it right the first time.

Re:HP != MIT (4, Informative)

heroofhyr (777687) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533626)

More important, I think, than homework assignments is having the textbooks. And a large number of MIT's "open" courses lack the texts. It's rather useless if you're going there because you want to learn Subject X only to find that the only materials you have access to are some lecture videos and a few notes here and there. I understand that classes use books written by other people who have no intention of ever making that book free, but using MIT's OCW as a means of learning is far from a replacement for buying a book or going to a real course. Sometimes even a Wikipedia article provides more useful information about a given subject than all the materials about that subject offered for download by MIT combined. It might have changed since the last time I visited the site, but at the time it wasn't all that impressive except maybe as a refresher for stuff I already knew but hadn't used for ages.

Re:HP != MIT (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534074)

While it does mean spending money, there's nothing stopping you from buying the books, though the prices on them can be... significant. For Single Variable Calculus [mit.edu] (the first math course listed), the book used is Calculus with Analytic Geometry [ecampus.com], which seems to go for about $150 new no matter where you look. The book is also used in Multivariable Calculus [mit.edu] and Principles of Aeronautic Control [mit.edu], so at least it can be spread out a bit.

Ow.

Re:HP != MIT (1, Interesting)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535056)

While it does mean spending money, there's nothing stopping you from buying the books, though the prices on them can be... significant. For Single Variable Calculus (the first math course listed), the book used is Calculus with Analytic Geometry , which seems to go for about $150 new no matter where you look. The book is also used in Multivariable Calculus and Principles of Aeronautic Control, so at least it can be spread out a bit.


I heard there's a place you can walk into that has rows and rows of shelves filled with books. People seem to take the books off the shelf, take them to the front counter, and then go away with said books - for free! Perhaps you may have heard of such a place - I think they're called libraries.

One common trick people do is borrow the text, and photocopy what they need. Or the more adventurous among us photocopy the entire book at 1/3rd the cost... Or you can borrow, and keep renewing it until you're done.

Re:HP != MIT (2, Insightful)

amazon10x (737466) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535434)

Local libraries often don't carry newer items such as textbooks.

Re:HP != MIT (3, Informative)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535580)

Even university libraries often don't carry them, and when they do, they're often on reserve so you can't take them out, and have to stay in the library. (Or have a very short loan period of a couple hours or so.) At least from my experience.

However, for some topics, old editions can be great. For the calc book mentioned, the previous edition can be had from half.com for as little as $5; $15 supposedly new. For something like calc, this should work pretty well unless the assignments are saying "do this problem from the book". (Then again, if you're not actually taking the class, whether it matches its assignment is unimportant if you can figure out an appropriately relevant sample of questions.) For other topics, like some areas of computer science or bio, this isn't necessarily an ideal solution.

Re:HP != MIT (3, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535130)

I'm not so sure. It depends a lot on the lecture notes available and the instructor (if applicable). Now that my job has a tuition reimbursement program, I've gone back to school in Florida State's online B.S. in Software Engineering program. I'm only on my second semester now, but to be honest with you, the only reason I've cracked one of the obscenely overpriced textbooks in my C++ and Discrete Math courses is when graded "homework" was assigned out of them. My prof's lecture notes are almost like a textbook in themselves. (My Comp Org class is another story. The lecture notes are all in powerpoint, so that book actually gets read.)

If the lecture notes distributed in OCW are any good, they may be able to make up for the obscene text prices. If not, two words will help: "Previous Edition."

Re:HP != MIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17535474)

Emule my friend. Almost every textbook can be found on emule if you were so inclined.

Re:HP != MIT (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535540)

More important, I think, than homework assignments is having the textbooks

And also equally important in many topics is the ability to get feedback from the prof about your work. Suppose I do an assignment from MIT's intro CS class. It works, but now where can I get feedback about my design? About alternate approaches? For that matter, how can I be sure that I thought of everything the professor did? If I'm stuck on something, who can I turn to for help?

There's a LOT more to what you get from a college education than just what MIT has up on the OCW site. (Not to bash them, because it really seems like it could be a great resource for a lot of stuff. I'm just saying that it still falls far short of even just the academic part of college.)

Re:HP != MIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17534726)

I disagree with your analogy. HP is one of the top companies in the world, a fat penguin it is not. These two organizations are complementary not competitors.

Don't miss the best part: remixing (4, Insightful)

chriss (26574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533302)

Don't get me wrong: Having the material available for free is great, even though a large part of the courses are incomplete in that they refer you to the standard literature for reference like most regular university courses will. But this is basically a logistic solution, a lot of knowledge is available today to anybody who can get hold of a library card at the local university and a lot of basic knowledge is no further away than the wikipedia.

But you will find that the number of people studying advanced calculus or Sino-Tibetian languages outside of university courses is small, even though a lot of material is available for free. Learning complex subjects is a process, not just a question of getting the information, and the process (with tutorials and working with other students and asking questions and assignments and so on) is what MIT is still selling, the content of OCW is only a small part of that.

Fortunately OCW is not simply free, but (at least partly) licensed under a Creative Commons license allowing non commercial sharing and remixing (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 [creativecommons.org]). While you may not be able to replicate the experience of studying at MIT, someone may take the content and add e.g. a technical communications layer.

You are into advanced web 3.0 elearning platform development, but have no way to create the content? Take OCW, reuse what they have and give the world a new learning experience? You always wanted to write a shoot-'em up game based on and explaining the principles on quantum physics? You solve the DirectX/OpenGL/game engine magic and compensate your lack of talent as a physics tutor by using parts of 8.04 Quantum Physics I, Spring 2006 [mit.edu].

These are primitive ideas, but I think about OCW more as a basis on which people can experiment than a library. Libraries have been around for a long time, unfortunately the majority of people don't use them. To reach the masses, you have to somehow turn the content of OCW into something compatible to a game console. Give it a shot!

Re:Don't miss the best part: remixing (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17533424)

So your point is that going to university forces you to learn the material and that is why it's better? Get some self discipline.

Re:Don't miss the best part: remixing (5, Insightful)

chriss (26574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533602)

So your point is that going to university forces you to learn the material and that is why it's better?

Somewhat simplified, but basically: yes.

Get some self discipline.

Great idea, why did I never think of that? Or why didn't billions of other people not simply get some self discipline? Not only would it solve all the problems of our educational systems, it would also rid us of smokers and obese people in no time. I'm actually in the educational business and the big problem is motivation, not access to information. Ever bought a language course on books and CDs? They are flying of the shelves, yet almost nobody (besides the people that already have hardcore self discipline) learns a language with these.

Should you actually have a solution how (or even where) someone can "Get some self discipline", patent it and get rich within seconds. A large part of human kind has been looking for a working solution for centuries. And as a hint: Just do it, Stop whining, Turn on your brain or You only have to really want to are no the solution.

Re:Don't miss the best part: remixing (1)

shirai (42309) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534716)

Parent poster makes an excellent point which is why I believe a large part of going to school should be about teaching people how to teach themselves.

I really do believe that teaching somebody to learn on their own is an important yet widely ignored skill set. As an employer, people who can are high on the hiring list.

Re:Don't miss the best part: remixing (1)

deltacephei (842219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535374)

This is an excellent observation. It seems humans at a certain level are inherently lazy. Why is this?

Re:Don't miss the best part: remixing (1)

cloricus (691063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534032)

As some one currently doing a Comp Sci course at a Uni in Australia I welcome this sort of thing. Any information that you can trust is good information; structured information is so much better. I'll be taking full advantage of this sort of thing to supplement my current learning and for extra things I find interesting.
 
Kudos to MIT and others doing similar!

Re:Don't miss the best part: remixing (2, Interesting)

zotz (3951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534058)

"Fortunately OCW is not simply free, but (at least partly) licensed under a Creative Commons license allowing non commercial sharing and remixing (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 [creativecommons.org])."

And the NonCommercial option makes this gratis but not libre and introduces a large can or worms.

Does anyone know why the institution that has the MIT License named after it felt the need to use a NonCommercial license?

For instance, if I understand what I have read over at the creative commons mailing lists correctly, no for profit company can "deal" in any of these materials for any reason whatsoever.

all the best,

drew

Re:Don't miss the best part: remixing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17534344)

I feel I should point out that the feel of this project has always suggested it was intended as a resource for:

1. Professors at other Universities looking to modernize their curriculum.
2. Teachers in high schools looking for new problems and modern ideas to present in class.
3. Students wanting to self-study.
4. The general public.

MIT has a vested interest in their courses being the model every other university uses to guide what they teach. By doing so, MIT guarantees that they will always remain relevant. To a significant extent, OCW will mean that university professors who don't have the guidance of previous professors in their own department, either because the previous professors weren't good, or because the class didn't exist previously, will use MIT as a model for what they decide to teach.

To bring linux into it -- each of those other professors is like a software developer. By having a state-of-the-art, free, open-source project in existence for them to build off of easily available, everyone ends up using MIT's code.

licensing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17534942)

Aren't points 1 & 2 obvious commercial endeavors?

I think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17533314)

This is brilliant!

first to graduate! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17533320)

first post!

MIT is for communists (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17533332)

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awesome. (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533340)

This generous act is intended (in classical MIT style) to make knowledge free, open, and available. It's a great resource for people looking to improve their knowledge of our world.

I'm going to combine this with my OpenGrading program. I predict a 4.0 this semester.

Better than the other method. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533444)

I'm going to combine this with my OpenGrading program. I predict a 4.0 this semester.

That does not work very well [slashdot.org]. It's funny how the world takes care of silly tricks like that.

It would be better for you to spend time reading the coursework and apply it to something you do. In engineering, school and grades are a start, achievements are king. You can learn anywhere you are.

Re:awesome. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17534358)

The joke is on you! MIT uses a 5 point grading scale!

Classical MIT style is not free (2, Interesting)

MLopat (848735) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533370)

This generous act is intended (in classical MIT style) to make knowledge free

My tuition there was in the tens of thousands of dollars a few years ago. Not complaining. I loved course VI. But free, is not typical MIT style, because as we all know, you get what you pay for.

Re:Classical MIT style is not free (1)

tmbg37 (694325) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533814)

They're not exactly open and available either, as my rejected classmates will attest to :-)

The Motherload (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533384)

I must say, they have a very extensive listing, I'm really impressed. But is it wise to post all the exams, including the final? I can only assume that they give the actual students different ones which would relegate the online versions to mere practice. Tons of interesting materials, though. I think I shall enjoy picking through it.

Re:The Motherload (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533678)

From what I've seen, at least in Physics, the courses are only posted to OpenCourseWare after completion of the semester in which the course is offered at MIT.

Re:The Motherload (1)

Arthur Dent '99 (226844) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533700)

Yes, their course selection has grown considerably since OpenCourseWare was first introduced. I was very anxious to check it out when it was first released years back, but at that time the courses available were limited, and some seemed to refer to materials which weren't available to those outside MIT. I'm looking forward to trying it again now that it has expanded.

As far as the exams go, I wonder if they post actual past exams, then change them so that future students can't cheat? I would guess that a prestigious school like MIT probably wouldn't reuse exams anyway for just such a reason... but I've never attended there, so I'll leave that answer to others that have.

Re:The Motherload (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533960)

I think the reusing exams thing is on a professor by professor basis. I had a physics professor who didn't reuse entire tests, but had a pool of questions that he would answer. And he wouldn't even change the numbers, just use the same questions over and over again. Oh, and the exams were open book, and he let you bring in whatever materials you wanted to. So, a lot of students, rather than study, took their time tracking down old exams. By the end, they had just about every question with them during the exam, and just had to fill in a bunch of circles. I think this is the kind of thing that happens when professors are allowed to teach the same course for 30 years, and the material never changes. They get bored, decide to make their job easier, and in the process the students learn less.

Re:The Motherload (1)

rbannon (512814) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533944)

Okay, I'm not teaching at MIT, but I typically post a lot of material on my website and it just forces me to redo the course each semester. It's a lot of work, mainly because I can't reuse material once it gets published.

For those interested, here's one example site:

mth-121-2006-fall.blogspot.com [blogspot.com]

Re:The Motherload (1)

bir0 (315616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534014)

In my experience at university here in Queensland, Australia, past exams are available in the library . They write new exams every semester. ...I never actually went and looked at a past exam though ;-) except for when a lecturer/tutor gave us a copy of example questions in class. We were the first group through a new course structure so lots of the assessment was being tried out for the first time too.

I am thinking of taking a look some of the info in the MIT OCW to see if I might be interested in studying some more in a slightly different discipline. I think it is great idea. Who knows... It might even inspire me to travel to the US and enrol in MIT or enrol externally. (If they'd have one of us poor cousins from Australia.)

Re:The Motherload (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17534252)

The homework is frequently recycled from year to year (I think they view it as natural selection) with useless or tedious problems gradually replaced with thought provoking questions that if you manage to actually do without help will give you a serious insight into a fundamental principle of nature. My favorite example of this was a problem about quantum scattering. The problem simply said (Problem Set 10, 8.06 Spring 2005)

"We want to investigate the structure of a crystal by scattering particles from it.
The particle sees the potential

(obvious equation for a system with three-dimensional translational symmetry in the potential)

where the Xi are the position vectors of the scattering atoms and v(x) is the
scattering potential of a single atom. Assume that v is weak enough that we
can use the Born approximation for the whole crystal, ie for V .
  (a) Express the differential cross section as the product of two factors, one of
          which depends on v and the other on the structure of the crystal, ie the
          set of points Xi . Both factors will depend on the momentum transfer q.
  (b) Briefly, compare to whatever you know about Bragg scattering."

What a gorgeous question. If you do part (a), you realize that the solution is a fourier transform. Thus, you've derived Bragg scattering from quantum mechanics without making any bizarre assumptions about planes of atoms reflecting light and all that nonsense you learn in basic crystallography.

However, tests aren't recycled, barring the rare exception where a single professor has taught the same course for 60 years (in which case, some leniency must be granted). Tests here tend to be substantial extrapolations from work done in the course, and it's exceedingly rare to get lucky and have a professor who will be kind enough to post a problem that's similar enough even to a homework problem to be doable without a great deal of thought. Generally, if you can do the tests from the previous years without help, you'll be able to do the test from the current year without help. However, memorizing the test will get you nowhere fast.

Re:The Motherload (1)

bsharitt (580506) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534494)

I've actually been using this for a while, just something to read when bored, and a lot of the coures are quite nice, especially the ones that have full course notes and video.

Re:The Motherload (3, Informative)

Hawkxor (693408) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535178)

Almost all MIT classes write new problem sets and exams each year. However, previous years' exams are some of the best resources for studying, and a large selection of these are usually provided as reference material.

Real /. readers have been aware since 2002... ;-) (5, Informative)

Lord Satri (609291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533470)

"Many people may not know that MIT has initiated OpenCourseWare [...]"

MIT OpenCourseWare Now Online [slashdot.org]
On September 30th, 2002 with 179 comments

And more much other older stories [slashdot.org].

Re:Real /. readers have been aware since 2002... ; (1)

psykocrime (61037) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533886)

No doubt. OCW has been discussed many times [google.com] here on Slashdot.

Re:Real /. readers have been aware since 2002... ; (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17534384)

So? It's good that this get posted again as a lot of people have not been reading /. since 2002. I've read about it before but I still like to be reminded that the resoureces are there to use.

And now... (4, Insightful)

davecrusoe (861547) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533494)

Ok, so the content is (and has been) open... mostly (if you can get access to the journal articles and books). Now what some feisty OCW-fanatics should do is to start an OCW-compliant online course discussion / collaboration site, so that people who are interested in working through specific course material can all work together, and discuss, rather than operate, read, etc -- in isolation. After all, learning is a social enterprise... call it an open university...

Other Universities doing this as well... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17533718)

Utah State University [usu.edu]* also has open courseware as well as COSL [usu.edu] (The Center for Open and Sustainable Learning), which is doing a lot to making the creation, remixing, and collaboration between open courses better. It also hosts the OpenEd conference. [usu.edu]

*Disclaimer: I am a student at Utah State University

"Open University" name taken, something else then? (1)

davecrusoe (861547) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535012)

Well, it seems the Open University is an actual entity in the UK, and get this, it's not even free! Anyhow, there's got to be another good name for the OCW-based collaborative, non-profit, collective course system.

This is what colleges should be about (1)

starseeker (141897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533518)

How effective these resources will be depends largely on the learning style of those who plan to study, but what a great resource to have available. So many people could use it:

a) High school students not challenged by their current materials have somewhere to go.
b) Students at other universities who need additional resources can look here.
c) Those simply looking to learn about the world around them have a low/no cost place to start.

I'm sure there are many, many more. But this, in my opinion, is what colleges should be about - creating a more educated, thoughtful, and critical (in the sense of examining and not simply accepting) population. I'm sorry to see patents and patent revenue becoming such a large part of college/university thinking - if you want to do that, build a commercial research center. Things like this keep hope alive - education for its own sake. There is more to the world than business (although I'm not sure our society remembers that some days) and efforts like this really do make the world a better place.

HomeSchoolers (1)

mulhollandj (807571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533534)

I wonder if this is a move to cater more towards home schoolers.

Probably not (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535196)

I homeschool my kids. I'll definitely be looking at these courses for extra material. I'll also look at these courses for my own benefit too. I don't think that homeschoolers are of primary interest yet.

I think MIT is realising that there are a lot of people out there who want informal education. I have a post grad degree but did not go further (PhD etc) because I thought I could learn much more by pursuing my own goals rather than following a university program. I think this approach has worked well for me. Access to these courses will open up more opportunities.

Free courses from Berkeley... (1)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533546)

....including "Operating Systems and Systems Programming" and "Machine Structures" are here [berkeley.edu]. Hopefully these are a good listen.

I've also gotten through most of the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs [blogs.com] lectures and although there's a lot of chalk-on-blackboard noises that you're not able to see, you can still pick up quite a bit of good info.

Coursework isnt the point of college (1, Interesting)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533552)

The course itself is not the point of going to college. If you did this instead of taking a course you would be missing out on the interaction with the professor as well as the connections/letters of recommendation you would get if you were actually attending MIT.

On top of that you could take those open courses and understand the material better than anyone, but who do you think an employer is going to hire/grad school is going to admit? The guy who said he went through the open courses on MITs website or the guy who graduated from MIT.

This isnt anything particularly new, you could always go shell out fifty bucks for a textbook and read the thing. Noone would consider that as valuable as a college education though.

One of the sad truths about higher education is that 99% of the time the degree itself and the connections you made in college are far more valuable than anything you actually learned in school.

Re:Coursework isnt the point of college (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533680)

In other words, it's not what you know but which instructors you slept with. I get it.

Re:Coursework isnt the point of college (2, Insightful)

firstian (810484) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534392)

Having spent a few years at MIT doing a PhD, I agree with that. The most valuable things I got out of it (even though I didn't finish the degree) was able to live with the pressure of being surrounded by people much smarter than you. I spent pretty much all my waking hours working, playing, arguing with my peers in the lab. I was constantly exposed to new ways of thinking about problems, constantly lived in fear of not able to measure up. And then there are those dreaded oral exams. Ever since I was "tormented" by a half dozen professors in the oral portion of the general exam for PhD, I no longer feel any fear in engaging in technical discussions. That kind of experience must be gained by living in it, immersing yourself and trying to survive. This publicly available material is great for helping to spread the knowledge, but knowledge itself is only a component of education for a whole person.

Missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17535194)

It's not about getting university certificaiton.

Having the state of the art synthesized into class notes/presentations and available to all, is really valuable to working professionals. Want a primer on XYZ or LMNOP technology? Find the open courseware materials and study the relevant sections as an intro/primer. Really a great way to ramp up quickly on areas you are unfamiliar with in a short period of time, with informations distilled by specialists, instead of wading through conference papers, academic literature, or internet sources of dubious quality.

It also has a big advantage for MIT faculty: promoting their views of their specialities over others. Having your ideas more accessible increases your influence.

curriki.org (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533578)

Another interesting project, albeit with a very low profile so far and just getting started, is Sun's curriki.org [curriki.org]. AFAICT it's intended to be a more corporate version of wikibooks (which has been a dismal failure, BTW) -- a wiki for making free textbooks. They prefer to use a the BSD-style CC-BY license, they're focusing on K-12, and it looks like they're not going to let people edit unless they're approved by Sun. (Being at least 18 is a hard requirement.) I guess my expectations for curriki.org are low, based on my own opinion about why wikibooks never got off the ground: basically, a wiki just isn't a good way to write a textbook.

Questions about the license (1)

AJ_Levy (700911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533618)

Under what license is this offered? Is the license compatible with GNU - FDL, and could this content be incorporated into Wikibooks or Wikiversity?

Re:Questions about the license (1)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533704)

A Creative Commons license, but I'm fairly sure the noncommercial clause alone will make it noncompatible with GNU's FDL.

Knowledge (2, Insightful)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533644)

This is a great way to have knowledge at your fingertips, but unfortunately even if you learned everything on the page, you would have exactly zero credibility, as you wouldn't have gone through the 4-5 years of actual schooling. It'd be great if there were a way to actually get credit for reading and studying this without paying MIT approximately $40,000 a year.

A more positive slant (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535220)

Perhaps if you take a degree elsewhere, as well as take these courses, then you're on to a good thing.

If you're doing this just for the paper-credibility then I think you're wasting your time.

I've used it regularly (4, Interesting)

miyako (632510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533676)

I've used open courseware for a while now to do a few different courses. My University degree was informative, but there were certainly bits of information I missed out on. More importantly, since I graduated from school several months ago, it's been easy to get into the habbit of not thinking too much outside of work, so going through some of the material on OCW has been good for keeping me sharp and learning new things.
The biggest problem that I've found is that the quality varies wildly. Some courses, like the intro to algorithms course, have videos of all lectures, as well as MP3 versions, course notes, etc. I find these really helpful since I'm more of an audio learner than a video learner and do better with a lecture to watch.
Other courses are well fleshed out with PDFs and slideshows, which are still a great way to get information.
The problem is some courses have only one or two lectures out of the entire course available, or are missing key lectures.
I think that the OCW initiative is a great idea, and has been well implemented for some courses. I hope to see them get all of the courses up to par with the top quality ones.

Re:I've used it regularly (1)

SQL Error (16383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533932)

I've been listening to the Introductory Psychology lectures, and they're wonderful. But for the majority of courses, all that's available is lecture notes, and sometimes not even that.

It's a great thing that MIT are doing, but even so, the execution is a little disappointing.

Re:I've used it regularly (1)

Hawkxor (693408) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535232)

I took that class in the year it was recorded, Wolfe is a great lecturer; too bad he doesn't teach at MIT anymore for dumb political reasons.

Re:I've used it regularly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17534282)

MIT does record many of its courses, but the videos aren't available to the public. Instead, they are offered to online students in foriegn countries. The OpenCourseware is simply a way for IT to better manage course pages (many schools use Blackboard) and for the public relations to get more media attention.

Change of course? (1)

rumith (983060) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533776)

Wasn't MIT among the universities that started distributing [for a price] DRM'ed electronic books/lectures with a license [= ability to legally use] that would only last a semester or so?

The MIT's OCWP is great,but the OU is better IMHO (2, Informative)

adsl (595429) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533780)

It's really quite something to be able to peruse the MIT's material and all credit to them. However, I think that many find it difficult to go through such material if at the end of the study one has nothing but inner satisfaction and some knowledge to show for it. In the UK they have the Open University with online University Degrees and Post Graduate study courses in a very wide range of subject matters. See http://www3.open.ac.uk/about/ [open.ac.uk] Now this is NO Free but is extremely cost effective compared to ANY other form of study and after study and exams results in a fully acredited Degree. Unfortunately it's available only to UK tax paying residents. The courses they offer for those outside of the UK are rather more expensive (no Government subsidy) and rather more limited in scope. There is nothing similar in the USA as far as I can see. Yes there are online degree courses but the cost basis is always rather high (certainly cmpared with the OU. I worked it out that a degree course would cost around Pds6,000.00 in the OU. Also entry is NOT dependent upon High School Certificate. You merely show up online, Register, pay and keep up with the course work etc. Unfortunately UK Citizens outside the UK (no tax residents are also excluded). It would be good if something similar to the UK's OU were available in the USA, entry wise and price wise. Meantime this is NOT a criticism of the MIT, I applaud their commitment to offering course material.

Re:The MIT's OCWP is great,but the OU is better IM (1)

SilverJets (131916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534146)

It would be good if something similar to the UK's OU were available in the USA, entry wise and price wise.

Well there is always Canada's Open University http://www.athabascau.ca/ [athabascau.ca] and it is not restricted to just tax paying residents of Canada.

Barf... fucking Real Media (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17533808)

Why in the world do people use this shit? I'd love to see Gilbert Strang's lectures in linear algebra, but I'd love for my PC to continue functioning properly, too.

Re:Barf... fucking Real Media (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533974)

Many courses are also available in MPEG-4 which makes me happy.

I ask the MIT alumni I know to write something complementary of OCW on the "memo" line of their donation checks.

All my good profs stroked out or suicided over Winter Breaks. OCW fills in the holes.

Open Source Testing ? (2, Interesting)

LM741N (258038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533906)

I would love to have MIT's course material available to study, but I know that if my feet aren't held to the fire, I tend to slack off. It would be cool for groups of people to get together to test one another as well on the material. Kind of Open Source Testing for lack of a better set of words. I also know that I get more self confidence and more of a sense of accomplishment when I do well on tests.

Re:Open Source Testing ? (3, Interesting)

John Miles (108215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534094)

That would rock, all right... it'd be great to see a popular community site for self-study participants. It'd be more like a natural extension of the OSS developer-support process. Instead of explaining how to use API function X or feature Y, you'd see people answering questions about lecture points and even swapping exams for grading. (The idea of being accountable to someone else, even an anonymous study partner 2,000 miles away, would be a great motivator for many people.)

Re:Open Source Testing ? (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534406)

As someone else said, an Open University would be very cool, both for current students around the world who want extra information/help, and those who just want to learn. All it really needs is a name and some minimal infrastructure. Wikiversity [wikiversity.org] seems like a half-assed attempt; I'm sure someone can do better.

Re:Open Source Testing ? (3, Insightful)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534452)

What it needs is accreditation and for colleges to accept its courses as transfer credit.

Oh no! (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#17533916)

Real Player. Thanks a lot guys!

Re:Oh no! (1)

apowerfuldell (699002) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534504)

Let all your problems be solved: http://www.free-codecs.com/download/Real_Alternati ve.htm [free-codecs.com]

Re:Oh no! (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534652)

Very nice, but my point is, why that? It smells of advertisement, and I wonder what kind of deal was made to pull this off. Somebody is financing this, and if it was a group of alunmi that wish to remain anonymous, or simply the "elders" or whoever, then fine. But here it looks like somebody is expecting something in return. Maybe it's paying rent for outside streaming services, etc. through product placement. It is otherwise unecessary to use this format. What advantage does it have over others that are more easily accessable with less cumbersome software?

STRANG'S LINEAR ALGEBRA!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17534098)

Professor Strang's streaming lectures (and his book I checked out of the library) saved my ass and got me a B+ in that dreadful linear algebra class. What's great is I now love that subject.

Paper (1)

crossmr (957846) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534124)

As most of us know, knowledge is useless in the "real" world without the piece of paper behind it to back it up. Most employers don't want to do their own testing. I guess if you wanted to study your ass off and challenge a bunch of courses you could save that way.

More useful for leaders than followers (1)

dstone (191334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534280)

As most of us know, knowledge is useless in the "real" world without the piece of paper behind it to back it up.

If you need someone's permission or resources to apply knowledge then, sure, you might need paper credentials. The classic example is those looking to be hired for their first job.

But if you need knowledge and you're already in a position to apply it (e.g. self-employed, already employed with seniority, or a hobbyist/independent/artist/mad-scientist)... then this OpenCourse concept is fantastic. Kudos to MIT.

The self-employed and long-employed are, by the way, categories of the "real-world".

Re:More useful for leaders than followers (1)

crossmr (957846) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534498)

Unless you're employer requires proof that you took the course. i.e. a final grade or certificate from the institution you took the course from.

This really only benefits the self-employed (who need no proof of knowledge) and people who work for employers who will take their word that they've completed required training X.

Re:More useful for leaders than followers (1)

tehdaemon (753808) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534598)

And those who want to know stuff for some reason other than getting paid. Not all of us are in your mental rut.

Re:More useful for leaders than followers (1)

crossmr (957846) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534872)

You expect to prove that with an ignorant statement? Refer to my original post where I was referring to the usefulness of this in the "real" world. I wasn't even talking about people who just want to learn.

Re:More useful for leaders than followers (1)

tehdaemon (753808) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535572)

Your 'real' world is a strange beast then, if it does not include people who just want to learn. You can't even see the rut you are in.

Re:More useful for leaders than followers (1)

simula (1032230) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535346)

What about people that write software on their own time or start an open source project.

An employer can actually look at a portfolio of work and even look at sample code. That is a far better testament to a person's abilities than simply a degree.

Re:More useful for leaders than followers (1)

crossmr (957846) | more than 7 years ago | (#17535432)

Of course it is. You and I know that, but how many managers actually know that? This is also great for a disadvantaged kid, but unless its going to put him in scholarship range, its not likely to be of any benefit to him. Everyone can potentially benefit from this (whether personally or professionally), but how many people learn to just learn? Most people aren't that in love with learning and usually use knowledge as a means to an end. The most common application of that is in the workplace, and its benefits are limited there. We can pick scenarios where its good and bad, but what percentage of the workforce is actually in those scenarios. You can nitpick exceptions all day and night if you like, but as something the majority could take advantage of use to their advantage its somewhat limited. That doesn't make it bad or wrong for them to do, it would just be a much more successful and far reaching venture if there was someway to "prove" the knowledge you gained from the course. Say an open source testing center with randomized questions put together by the instructors and marked by computers. Charge a low fee to take the test, say $25 bucks a go, and even a disadvantaged kid could perhaps get one or two credentials under his belt as a stepping stone to something greater if he did well.

If you're worried about textbooks... (3, Informative)

cursorx (954743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534320)

...and couldn't care less about copyright law, head over to a private e-learning torrent tracker (just Google...getting invites is harder, but persevere), or connect to the ed2k network. You can easily complement these MIT course outlines with the recommended textbooks, in nice .pdf, ready-to-print format. If you don't find what you need, request it and someone might be able to help you. Or just go to a library.

I appreciate MIT's initiative, but they should disclose a bit more about these courses than what amounts to, basically, extended syllabi. Lecture notes, from the samples I've examined, are predictably useless. Some of the courses have videos of lectures, and that's a big plus compared to most of what the OpenCourseWare program usually offers. But that's not really enough. It's somewhat useful, but they're only distributing breadcrumbs, pretending they're giving out the whole bread (or half a loaf).

Re:If you're worried about textbooks... (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534532)

Yeah, what's with the draconian invite policies on these sites (eg, BitMe)? They're so fucking worried about "cheaters" that they block out people with unique material to share. It's an utterly pointless power trip.

Re:If you're worried about textbooks... (1)

cursorx (954743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534686)

That is an issue, absolutely. Sometimes entire IP ranges get banned, and even entire countries (the whole of Israel is banned from a few trackers). The best thing is to never even contact mods or admins, since a mild misunderstanding could get you banned if they're on a bad day. Luckily, there are always alternate ways to obtain the content they provide.

Re:If you're worried about textbooks... (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534708)

It's not just educational stuff, either. There are quite a few communities only properly served by private trackers that are depressingly closed. If I wasn't living in the US, I would absolutely love to start a couple of my own, and not be a total dick when it comes to administration.

WTF?Is this a mistake? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17534376)

this is fucking ancient. who the fuck doesn't know about this? this is becoming such a fag site.

Doesn't meet the hype (2, Insightful)

homotopy (766889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534448)

As a physicist, I took a serious interest in the physics and math courses. A few are outstanding, providing lecture notes, worked examples, etc., but the majority have very little material. Frequently just a list of textbooks and a schedule - the sort of thing every college instructor posts for every course anyway.

This + OLPC = Whoopage (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17534752)

Can you see the synergy? Projects like OLPC deliver computers into the hands of many intelegent young people with no real chance for education. Inovations like MIT Opencourseware provide University level information to them.
Of course, some will say, "Do we want millions of kids in third-world slums hacking linux??? To which I will say, "Yes, We Do."

thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17534886)

As a Chinese, I would like to express my thankfulness to this project and to all staff of MIT.
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