Home New MIT OpenCourseWare Initiative Aims to Improve Independent Online Learning

New MIT OpenCourseWare Initiative Aims to Improve Independent Online Learning

MIT OpenCourseWare is launching five new courses today that mark a new model for one of the world’s premier open educational resources. These OCW Scholar courses are designed for use by independent learners, and like the other material made available through MIT OCW, are freely available for anyone to pursue.

These aren’t distance learning classes – there is no instructor, no contact with MIT, no credit. But the courses are meant to be stand-alone offerings, not requiring any additional materials for learning.

Although MIT OpenCourseWare may have become synonymous with the move to online education, it’s worth noting that the original expectation of the initiative was that by making the university’s course content freely and openly accessible, other educators would use the syllabi, lecture notes, tests and assignments to design their other courses. It’s apparent, however, that the most of the people using the site are there as learners, not as teachers.

The OCW Scholar courses are aimed at providing these learners with a more complete set of materials, so that those taking the courses needn’t turn elsewhere for other resources – such as journal articles – in order to complete the curriculum. These new OCW courses combine materials from multiple MIT courses, and the OCW team has worked with university faculty and teaching assistants to create new materials specifically designed for this project.

The Physics 1 class, for example, contains a set of video lectures from MIT physics professor Walter Lewin, a set of course notes (replacing the need for a traditional textbook), a set of class slides, homework problems, homework help videos (in which Lewin helps learners through solving the problems), links to related materials, and an online study group at OpenStudy where you can connect with other independent learners.

MIT OCW plans to publish 20 OCW Scholar courses over the next three years, all focused on introductory college-level science, math, engineering and other foundational subjects. This first set of courses that launch today include 8.01SC Physics I, 8.02SC Physics II, 18.01SC Calculus I, 18.02SC Calculus II and 3.091SC Introduction to Solid State Chemistry.

The OCW Scholar courses are a new approach to MIT OpenCourseWare, but as the program notes, this is meant to complement not replace the other OCW publications. “We’re still committed to publishing MIT’s materials as we always have,” says OCW Executive Director Cecilia d’Oliveira, “and our core publication continues to provide tremendous value to educators and students around the world. With OCW Scholar, we are enhancing our support for independent learners and building on what we’ve accomplished with the rest of the site.”

As we recently reported, MIT OpenCourseWare has continued to grow in popularity, with 9.6 million visitors last year and tens of millions of files downloaded from the site, from YouTube and from iTunesU. The expansion of the program is meant to increase the scalability of OCW, making sure that more people can have access to these educational resources.

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