Opencourseware: A contrarian view

Thoughtful article from  Woodie Flowers at MIT

Why not OpenCourseWare?

I argued that the program that became OpenCourseWare should have focused its original $100 million estimated budget on two topics. I suggested microbiology and electromechanical systems as examples. Had we done that, I believe we would have accelerated changing education. We decided, however, to assume that the world could hardly wait to see our huge pile of PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, classroom locations, teaching assistant lists, and other assorted bits of information about our courses. We now have a large database developing digital rot and becoming increasingly irrelevant. It is unlikely OCW will be systematically Facebooked, or Twittered, or HTML5ed, or deFlashed. It is an expensive and unsustainable “free” system.

We have spent about $40 million over 10 years. Powered by MIT’s incredible brand recognition, OCW has made an impact and been celebrated with awards. About seven years after OCW was launched, Salman Khan, our next graduation speaker, started posting a coherent, concise set of tutorials that were inexpensively produced but backed by a pedagogic philosophy. When I last checked Google Trends, the Khan Academy’s search hits exceeded OCW’s by an order of magnitude. Khan designed a product that teachers and students want and need. His modestly-produced presentations are used by millions. Starting with zero brand recognition, he has matched or exceeded OCW’s impact. What might we have done with $40 million, 10 years, and the most powerful technology education brand on the planet?

Post by Jonathan Rees

Clinical academic and skin watcher at the University of Edinburgh

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