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OCWC Global 2011: Panel on MIT OCW

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Patrick McAndrew
4 May 2011

Steve Carson introduces a very distinguished panel of those involved in the formation of MIT OCW. The committee looking at whether MIT should move into distance learning instead recommended that all MIT content should be given away for free.

Charles Vest: two keys to great things: One is to listen to the ideas that don't come from the top down. Two is that really great ideas will find their support somehow.

His own background drew on what happened with the radiation lab (operational work on radar) at MIT. This was closed at the end of the war but gave people 6 months to write up before they moved on. Led to new approach to the field with notes that were shared and added to that spread across the US. The other factor was the idea took so quickly both at MIT and with foundations (especially Bill Bowen of Mellon Foundation and then Hewlett Foundation) - rather than the more typical couple of years to take on. 

Dr Robert Brown: annual planning meeting in 1998 to see what key items needed promoting. MIT was under investing in educational technology. Other institutions were mobilising - so led from 1999 a council on educational technologies to innovate internally and externally. 

Lawrence Bacow: Some scepticism from MIT faculty - "time spent putting stuff on the web is a distraction". Foundation funding made people aware there would be resources. Early adopters - led to existence proof and could see helped other work work.

Dick Yue: committee looked at models that others were coming up with - certificates etc, copy etc. But then MIT historical context encourages looking for ways to get big impact ... "Is that all there is to life". Felt that initial report that they produced felt like "no big deal" - wanted to find something more exciting and way to be an early adopter. Produced a big report to show that everything was considered but also bring out vision and paid intention to the economics - but primarily felt the time was right. Benefits and values - move forward in technology, help students, interests of foundations, ... But actually this idea turned out to answer a lot of questions. OCW is not just a good idea - but was MIT in action and the fit with how faculty think about education.

Shigeru Miyagawa. Commitment to publish everything made before understood how many courses there were - surprised to find we had 2000 courses. OCW meant he saw academic leadership in action in a new way.

Hal Abelson: Lots of good ideas - leadership brought out the way this idea fitted with MIT and insisted on getting buy in from the faculty. Openness helps move away from Internet 1.0 to new ideas. Also need to think about where we are going. Book "New culture of learning" Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown helps set the scene. Now moving forward to not "publishing knowledge" but new ways to create knowledge - now thinking about how to change MIT for a world of so many resources. 

(DY) Faculty overwhelmingly bought in. Charles Vest: Three concerns - Intellectual Property (very minor - noise level). Worry that would not innovate. Worry that too mundane and will not look to be high quality. Really unique was the comprehensiveness of giving the whole thing. Most viewed as something that was a tool for teachers - missed that majority of users would be self-learners.

(LB) There was expectation from students that would have content on the web. But was some concern about the value of the residential undergraduate experience. (RB) noise from students, alumni and parents: are we giving away the MIT experience which needs to be earnt. Commodotising MIT education - but this did not happen. (LB) the books written by people at MIT are not an MIT education (CV: MIT education is not a "box full of books"). (DY) Publishing can free up faculty to teach rather than copy from one place to another. Worries that numbers will decline not founded - rather high school students would look ahead. (RB) One professor: Will never do this. Have a set of notes that use - what would he do if they are available. On other hand Singapore-MIT alliance meant starting to teach remotely so need to think these things through. OCW created a healthy debate.

(SM) set out idea that it should spread from very beginning. 2003 tried to get neighbour institutions involved e.g. Tufts. Now a much biiger community - this was not an after thought. (DY) Sought a name that did not directly reflect MIT - OpenCourseWare and did *not* trademark this. Again with idea that MIT is only one institution and does not do many disciplines so intend to be an early model for others. (LB) Moved to Tufts and found that Tufts already thinking about this approach and worked on digitising medical content. Tufts University Sciences Knowledgebase. Easy decision to join in with OCW.

HA: Where we are heading next. Future of OCW with future of the university. World more about generation of knowledge so need infrastructure for impact. Need to remember how far we have come already - lead into co-creation of knowledge.

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Patrick McAndrew
4:17pm 4 May 2011


Move towards synchonous - what is the future. SC: Can we foster use and assessment around the content. CV: very important question. Support for university dropping (24% down in 10 years) charges (up 50% in 10 years) - an unsustainable system. Worldwide great expansion going on. Believe in a role for traditional residential university but no answer to the big problems without technology being part of the solutions. LB: looking at the obstacles to interactive learning at the moment. But also a big chance for those expanding education in the rest of the world to find new ways to expand educational opportunities to leap from to new infrastructures.

Has there been an effect on learning inside the institution. (RB) this was not assessed inside the institutions. HA: there are a series of experiments. OCW has not transformed MIT as much as it transformed the world. DY: it has contributed to the interconnectedness of the university and the choice for students. Openness is powerful and have received advice on better suggestions - cannot do that without being open. SM: 80% of faculty look at other members' sites means that teaching models are starting to spread.

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