A special thanks to all those who attended our celebration and to those who submitted questions. Do you have a new question to submit? We want to help, check out our FAQs, or submit your question here.
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At our Celebrating 20 Years of MIT OCW event, we received lots of great questions from our audience, but we ran out of time to answer them all. (Big thanks to the more than 1,300 people who tuned in!) Here, we’ve gathered some of those audience questions and our answers.
Have there ever been instances where you had to choose between one course and another? How do you decide which one should go live? – Aflah
Aflah, we are making these choices all the time. Over 3,000 courses are taught at MIT every year, but we only have the capacity currently to publish a small fraction of this enormous volume of content so it’s quite a balancing act!
We aim to present a balanced representation of MIT’s complete curriculum; so in addition to the STEM and entrepreneurship programs for which MIT is most renowned, we also prioritize MIT’s superb courses from across the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
Overall, we prioritize publishing courses that fulfill degree requirements over elective courses, and updating courses when there’s been a substantial change in the teaching methods or course materials. But at any point in time, we’re also responding to which faculty have time and interest to share their materials, and to the momentum behind certain topics that seem particularly timely or urgent.
Through our Next Generation OCW platform and program launching later this year, we look forward to expanding our publication capacity, and ensuring that OCW remains a vibrant reflection of the evolving MIT curriculum.
I really love exploring all of the subjects, yet some I have found do not have lectures available. Is there something I can do to get them? – Christine
Christine, we love that you love OCW! We’re not holding back lectures; each OCW course site contains all the material that the faculty or instructor considered appropriate to publish on a website that is freely accessible worldwide.
We work with each course owner to include any of the MIT course materials that are digitally available and that can be published openly under our Creative Commons license. Wherever possible, we include pre-existing video in our publication, and we continue to invest in recording foundational courses.
The OCW audience includes self-learners, students, and educators. While some courses do not contain sufficient material for self-study, the materials that are available support a range of activities that educators and students undertake in using the site. While the ideal would be for all classes to support all audiences, in practice we end up with some that are more complete than others.
The easiest way to find OCW courses that do have lectures available is to browse using the Topics finder: https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/find-by-topic/ with the Feature Filter that allows you to narrow your results to courses that include lectures or other constraints.
You can also find great online courses through MITx, which include video lectures, problem sets, and more; and the MIT Open Learning Library offers self-study and ways you can engage with problems and receive instant feedback.
Happy Anniversary! Do all teachers at MIT participate in providing content to OCW or is it optional? How do you motivate faculty to participate? – Melchor
Melchor, lots of people don’t realize it but MIT educators all volunteer to share their teaching materials on OCW. They believe in contributing to the greater good of humanity and see the many benefits of sharing with the world. As many as 70% of the MIT faculty have participated in OCW. Mike Short, MIT Class of 1942 Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, shared his thoughts about OCW and how to convince faculty to participate.
Excerpt from “Celebrating 20 Years of MIT OpenCourseWare event”
“So in terms of how does the mere presence of OpenCourseWare enable students, and colleagues, and other instructors from around the world to contribute, just the very fact that it exists in this purely open and free environment, like Hal so well said, is the deciding factor that just allows humanity to share its knowledge. This, to me, is the single best thing in education… And so, in every interaction I have, from the emails I’m getting during the pandemic of people saying, I’ve watched all your lectures and they’ve kept me going and intellectually stimulated, to hearing how other faculty at the schools around the country and around the world have said, hey, I took your lectures, and we added these other new labs. Bring them back to MIT.
This, the whole idea of open sharing is infectious in the best possible way. And once you get hooked, it’s hard to stop, which also gets at one of the questions I saw on the chat, which is, how do you convince faculty to participate? I think by participating. It’s the single biggest factor to me, as somebody who has both benefited from and contributed to OCW, it’s altruism. It’s the desire for what you learned and what you can teach to impact humanity for the better. That’s, to me, the whole reason I get up in the morning, and I think that’s the case for most people in the world, they want to do good. They want to see themselves do good. And OpenCourseWare provides this enormous attractive force for everyone to see a part of themselves in this rapidly evolving and improving open educational space.”
What would you say to other higher education institutions who don’t see value in making their content openly available? Or those that even feel that it threatens them? “Why would someone pay if they could get it for free” mentality. – Tucker
Tucker, when OCW was first launched, lots of people in higher ed thought we were insane. At the same time, there were many who understood what we were trying to do. This effort actually helped launch the OpenCourseWare Consortium, which is now known as the Open Education Global. There are more than 350 institutions worldwide who are committed to opening up and sharing their teaching materials with the world.
Really, an education is more than the materials by which students learn. It’s the intangible and human things that OCW simply doesn’t offer, like learning together, speaking with and learning from classmates and instructors, collaborating with others that spark new ventures and research. But OCW doesn’t aim to replicate or replace those vital elements, and over time even many of the most skeptical have come to see the value of what OCW offers, separately from and in addition to a traditional education.
And OCW’s impact is quite significant:
- Educators: 85% say OCW has improved their motivation to teach, and 96% say it’s improved their motivation to keep learning
- Students: for those using OCW to complement their current studies, 94% say OCW improved their understanding of important concepts
- Self-Learners: 92% of those planning a return to school say that OCW increased their confidence of success
- Professionals: 100% say OCW increased their professional motivation, and 94% say OCW helped them learn new skills, techniques or perspectives
There’s more data on how OCW supports people in many ways, but we’ve found that OCW creates a lifelong connection between MIT and our students and alumni, helps improve teaching and learning at the Institute, showcases MIT and its curriculum, strengthens the Institute’s reputation, and promotes international engagement.
Lastly, sharing content openly does take time, effort, and funding. OCW is a commitment from MIT that will continue into the future. The hope is that one day, by fostering the open sharing of knowledge and the free publication of educational materials, more and more content providers will see the value of open sharing.
Could we receive official certificates (including scores, level in class, etc.) from MIT OCW? – Kamran
No, Kamran, we don’t offer certification or credit for using OCW because there is no enrollment, registration, or tracking that would allow us to verify your understanding of the materials or completion of a course.
It’s best to think of OCW as a free online library of course materials used to teach MIT undergraduate and graduate courses. Knowledge is your reward! You can use OCW to guide your own life-long learning, or to teach others.
You should check out MITx courses on edX that will offer you a certification for a small fee, and use OCW to supplement your study.
Great question Christopher! OCW is part of MIT Open Learning, which is the umbrella organization within MIT whose mission is to transform teaching and learning at MIT and around the globe.
OCW plays an important role in delivering on that mission by helping to bridge the gap between opportunity and advancement regardless of personal circumstance. OCW helps open learning to the world.
MIT Open Learning creates new pathways to access MIT’s learning and teaching resources, helping to expand the prospects of learners and educators interested in improving their knowledge and livelihood.
In addition to OCW, MIT Open Learning encompases MITx, MITx MicroMasters, MIT xPRO, MIT Bootcamps, MIT Horizon, MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab, MIT Integrated Learning Initiative, MIT ReACT, the Center for Advanced Virtuality, MIT RAISE, and other programs and labs. MIT Open Learning centers on efforts to effect high-impact, research-driven change in how we approach teaching and learning across all ages, from pre Kindergarten, through higher education, to the workplace. The various programs and labs in MIT Open Learning each represent a vital stage in an interconnected vision of spreading the highest-quality educational change at scale.
MIT OCW is already the best out there and the content is perfect. How is MIT planning to improve OCW to be even better? Thanks. – Kalpesh
Kalpesh, we’re excited to be developing a next-generation platform and program.
One of our central goals in thinking about the next generation OCW platform and program, is to make sure that we can offer the world a vibrant and up-to-date sharing of the MIT curriculum, as it evolves. As MIT works to address the world’s greatest challenges of today—issues like social justice, climate change and sustainability, and the future of computing—OCW will also evolve and grow.
A New Platform
It’s our hope that OCW will continue to be the place that MIT faculty can share openly the way that they teach, how they teach, as well as what they teach. And that requires a new platform that will allow us to update, and keep vibrant hundreds and hundreds of courses every year, which is something that we’re not able to do today, but we will be able to do very soon.
The platform will offer a seamless discovery and learning experience, new modes of discovery, new modes of search, for both desktop and mobile devices. Giving people a really good experience on mobile devices is an essential part of what we’re setting up to do with next-generation.
The new platform will also offer integrations with the learning management systems that educational institutions use, so that open content from OCW can better flow into the educational ecosystems of other institutions.
We anticipate launching this new platform later this calendar year.
We’ll continue to publish courses on OCW and instructor insights from the MIT faculty who want to describe how they approach teaching their courses, but to really realize a vision of equity, we need to offer learning pathways for all different types of people who may come from different starting points.
And that means we need the entire OER ecosystem, a web of institutions and entities across the ecosystem, collaborating and working together to realize this grand vision.