Saturday, October 17, 2009

Open Courses Online Slowly Expand

MIT’s OpenCourseWare project, which has made the elite university’s entire 1,940 course catalogue available free to anyone who can access the worldwide web, is still the leader in the emerging field, according to a front-page article in the October 16, Chronicle of Higher Education. Its open courses have drawn more than eight million users. In the U.S., the U. of California at Irvine offers 42 courses free on the web. Yale U. has posted 15, with 21 more scheduled for release, while Carnegie Mellon U. offers 12 courses.

The free online university lectures are being used in a variety of ways, the Chronicle noted, including use by autodidacts interested in expanding their knowledge on their own, high school students who are trying to earn advanced credit and college students who need extra reinforcement for their own university’s courses.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been a major supporter of the projects listed above. But, the Chronicle reported that U.S. universities are searching for a viable model to support their Open Courses. Utah State U., which has posted lecture notes, syllabi, audio and video recordings for 80 courses, was second place in the U.S. until the recent recession when it was unable to raise the $120,000 it takes to operate. Neither the university nor the state legislature could provide support, so the project folded.

However, nations such as China and India are moving forward at full speed with the Open Course idea as a way to help accelerate learning across their vast populations. China has already posted 10,000 university courses online.

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