Image of New York Times headline about OCW announcement, alongside Wikipedia logo and an image of DNA sequences on a computer screen.

OCW launched in 2001, alongside the creation of Wikipedia and the first publication of the Human Genome sequence.

This week, as we celebrate the 15 year anniversary of  MIT OpenCourseWare’s unveiling, we’re reflecting on other great strides taken in 2001 and in the years since. It wasn’t so long ago, but it can be hard to remember life before these other prominent “firsts.”

January 2001Wikipedia launched with the crowdsourcing concept that no central authority should control editing.

February 2001: the Human Genome Project published its draft sequence and analysis in Nature.

October 2001: Apple released the first iPod, putting “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

2001 was a time of tremendous energy, and also great uncertainty, about the growth and impact of the Internet. The dot-com investment bubble had burst in the previous year, and many early Internet high-fliers were crashing back to Earth.

The MIT faculty and administration were asking, “What impact will the Internet have on education, and what should MIT do about it?” Their answer, in the form of OCW, was a bold bet on the power of openly shared knowledge. Fifteen years later, the 200 million learners and educators around the world who have used OCW are grateful for their foresight and generosity.