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MIT and the Open Courseware Initiative

MIT and the Open Courseware Initiative

MIT announced on 4th April that it will be making the materials for nearly all its courses freely available on the Internet over the next ten years. MIT President Charles Vest commented:

"We believe OpenCourseWare will have a strong impact on a residential learning at MIT and elsewhere. Let me be clear: We are not providing an MIT education on the Web. We are providing our core materials that are the infrastructure that undergirds an MIT education. Real education requires interaction, the interaction that is part of American teaching. We think that OpenCourseWare will make it possible for faculty here and elsewhere to concentrate even more on the actual process of teaching, on the interactions between faculty and students that are the real core of learning."

Click here for the full press release.

This will undoubtedly have a major impact on those institutions that were hoping to market their course materials. For materials to be saleable, they will have to offer something beyond that provided by freely available content such as that offered by MIT. It may also result in the focus within e-Learning moving from the delivery of content to providing access to high quality interaction with people - academics, teachers and other students.

The Open Knowledge Initiative

In parallel to the announcement above, MIT also launched the Open Knowledge Initiative. This aims to provide an open source framework for the easy assembly of learning tools that are themselves open source. If successful this will have a major impact on the Learning Management System market. Most tools (like Blackboard and WebCT) have a one-size-fits-all approach, are expensive and commit institutions to a particular way of supporting e-learning, especially if an institution decides to adopt only one system. OKI's framework approach should provide a higher degree of flexibility, allowing courses to use different assemblies of tools that suit their pedagogies and needs. OKI will be working with IMS to ensure interoperability of tools and content.

The impact of OKI can already be seen in Blackboard's repositioning of themselves as an infrastructure provider, announcing that new releases of Blackboard will also allow "Blackboard compliant tools" to be plugged into their infrastructure.

All of this is good news for education, offering more choice and at a lower cost, without become tied to any commercial vendor.

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