Why OpenCourseWare matters

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Although the first major milestone is a year away, it's beginning to sink in for me how significant the MIT OpenCourseWare project is, and how it will affect Wikipedia. I'm including a comment from John Lienhard and some comments from students as background. <>< tbc

Did it sink in for anyone else that professors are lining up to publish their text books as part of OCW? (It didn't for me--until today. If only 10% of MIT's professors are as magnanimous as Prof. Lienhard, what a difference it will make for knowledge dissemination!

Making textbooks available for viewing online matters most to the poorest in the world (provided they are one of the five billion literate people and also have Internet access, but that's an obstacle to discuss another day). But ever for those who already have an education -- including bachelor's graduates like me -- OCW means we will have inexpensive access to higher quality educational materials that support our own personal lifelong learning goals!

More TBD. <>< tbc

From http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/nr/2001/ocw-fac.html:

Why do I support OpenCourseWare? Last year, I posted my undergraduate heat transfer textbook on the web for no-charge distribution. It is a 700 page pdf file, fully hyperlinked, and also properly typeset. In the domestic book market, the cost for this book would be $85 for the hardback or $45 for the paperback. My aim, however, is to provide the knowledge to those who can't afford to buy the book. The book has been downloaded by users from around the globe. Those users include many professors and students at remote universities in the third world. But the book is also being downloaded by students at universities in the United States and engineers in domestic industry. So the reach of my ebook has been quite broad. I therefore have every reason to believe that MIT's OpenCourseWare Initiative will immediately gain such a worldwide reach, and that it will allow MIT to expand its influence to students, teachers, and technical professionals, domestically and, especially, in less-developed nations. -- John Lienhard, Professor of Mechanical Engineering

From http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/tt/2001/apr11/ocwside.html:

I am a Nigerian student who has dreamt all his life of studying in MIT. Thanks a lot for making this dream come true, for if I can't come to MIT, MIT has now come to me."
"What I saw from your initiative is the possibility of a major global upgrade of education -- professors in the US and around the whole world, including those in little Uganda where I am from, will be inspired and motivated to be on par with MIT standards. The students will demand it because they will have access to high-end quality education, giving them opportunities for a better life and better access to other opportunities."
"I write this letter to convey my best wishes for the success of your OpenCourseWare program. I am resident in India, and would have given anything to have had access to such a facility when I was a student. I used to be frustrated when I wanted to learn and could not afford to buy books or simply did not have access to such books in local book shops."
"Knowledge should be free for those who want it. In the long run, it will speed up the progress of mankind.
"This is the most important news I have read in a long time. You have changed the world with one bold move."

In the long run, Wikipedia's going to be even more important--or so I hope. I've just written an article for http://www.opensourceschools.org that argues just this. --Larry_Sanger