MIT OpenCourseWare—and the OCW Consortium—represent just one facet of a much larger community of open education efforts that are using the power of the Internet to make education more equitable, effective and efficient.  The open education movement includes efforts to share courseware, journal articles, text books, digital tools, and—in the case of MOOC—whole courses.

Mostly, when people think of the assets shared in open educational efforts, they think of digital resources.  As a new website highlighted in a Guardian article today demonstrates, though, open educational practices can be applied to physical resources as well.  Here’s how the Guardian describes the new site:

Are you a university research department in need of a hyperbaric aquarium, a gold sputter system, or a 3D rapid prototyping colour printer? Each an expensive piece of kit, especially when your nearest neighbours down the road might already own one. If so, you’ll be interested to hear about the new national database aiming to catalogue every piece of research equipment held by British universities. is a bit like those hyperlocal sharing websites – “We’ll lend you our cake mixer if we can borrow your hedge trimmer” – only it applies to the whole UK higher education sector.

We applaud this effort to think beyond the digital in sharing educational resources.  MIT also has some unique takes on sharing physical resources, with one of the best examples being iLabs.  In a nutshell, iLabs provide remote online controls for actual physical laboratory equipment.  But we’ll let the iLabs folks do a better job of describing the project:

Online laboratories (iLabs) are experimental facilities that can be accessed through the Internet, allowing students and educators to carry out experiments from anywhere at any time. Remote labs enrich science and engineering education by vastly increasing the scope of experiments that students have access to in the course of their academic careers. Harnessing the Internet, MIT’s iLab middleware enables students to use real instruments, rather than simulations, via remote online laboratories using their browser. Unlike conventional experimental facilities, iLabs can be shared and accessed widely by students and other audiences across the world that might not otherwise have the resources to purchase and operate costly or delicate lab equipment.

iLabs are the brainchild of Professor Jesus del Alamo, a longtime contributor to OCW.  Here are courses on our site by Professor del Alamo: