MIT OpenCourseWare is one of the most popular site for learners to freely access university course materials, with over 70 million visitors to the site from all over the world. Yet despite the increasing popularity (and push, by the likes of the Gates Foundation's new initiative) for opencourseware, one of the downsides has long been that the materials - syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, exams - are presented in a static and solitary fashion.As we wrote earlier this month,
There has been no mechanism for instruction for and no interaction among MIT OCW students. Until now.
Studying OCW Shouldn't Mean Studying Alone
At the beginning of this academic year, MIT OpenCourseWare and OpenStudy joined forces in order to provide an interactive environment for those studying certain MIT courses. OpenStudy, a social study network that originated at Georgia Tech and Emory University, allows users to work collaboratively and to answer one another's questions.
Steve Carson, MIT OpenCourseWare's External Relations Director, told ReadWriteWeb that MIT tried to have a BBS several years ago to foster discussions about courses, but that there were never really enough traffic for any one course. And it's this experience, perhaps that made the pilot program for the OCW OpenStudy groups only tackle three MIT courses: Introduction to Computer Science, Single Variable Calculus, and Chinese I.
The response, says Carson, has been "extraordinary." There are now 3000 students participating in the CS study group, 2400 in the calculus study group, and 800 in the Chinese one.
More Students, More Courses
And seeing this response, MIT and OpenStudy have added more study groups - there are study groups for ten courses now - which in just a couple of week's time, have elicited enrollment from hundreds of students.
According to Phil Hill, OpenStudy's CEO, "Our goal is to bring a more social learning experience to students on MIT OpenCourseWare by ensuring they don't have to study alone. Seeing so many of them now working together from all corners of the globe is a great first step." And this global element is important, adds Carson, noting that participants will almost always find someone online in the study groups.
Carson says that the response points to new ways for the MIT OpenCourseWare program to expand as it's clear OCW learners are interested not just in the availability of the course materials but in a community in which to share and discuss the ideas they're learning.