2023-22 Impact of OpenCourseWare

Curt Newton, Director of OpenCourseWare (OCW), shares OCW’s impact over this
past 2023-2022 academic year and the outlook on what’s to come.

OCW in the Millions

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I get emails from people all over the world thanking me for sharing my course on the human brain, and it feels fantastic to know that people are enjoying and learning from the lectures. I am enormously proud to be at an institution that invented this method for democratizing education. -Nancy Kanwisher Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
Photo of a medical student lounge with 2 couches and a small table. 2 students sit on the left couch with a poster of the school name behind them. 4 students on the right couch look at a laptop together.

“We want to solve the problems that come from these diseases, but we need the toolkits to do research. Thanks to MIT OpenCourseWare and our own efforts, I hope we can create some vision — a path for other students after us.”​

–Yıldırım Adalıoğlu

“Advanced Studies” with MIT OpenCourseWare

Study group of medical students in Turkey uses free resources to pursue a PhD-level research agenda

“We didn’t have the chance to do doctoral-level research during medical school. We decided to create that for ourselves.”

Photo of 4 medical students standing outside a school building underneath a tent, with informational posters behind them and flyers on the table in front of them.
The co-founders of the study group İleri Çalışmalar, or “Advanced Studies,” at Ege University Faculty of Medicine in Turkey.

Support and collaboration to pursue focused interests

Photo of a student lounge with 8 students sitting in a semi-circle of couches and chairs, with a table between them. A poster with the school name is behind them.
A study session of İleri Çalışmalar on Ege University Faculty of Medicine campus.

The toolkits to build their own future

“We want to solve the problems that come from these diseases, but we need the toolkits to do research. Thanks to MIT OpenCourseWare and our own efforts, I hope we can create some vision — a path for other students after us.”

Feedback from OCW learners

I give to OCW as it is an amazing resource, free and open to anyone in the world - a vast knowledge base shared with everyone for the betterment of us all. Truly a resource to be admired. Chris, OCW Supporter OCW helped me discover different fields from the best educators in the world. OCW encourages lifelong learning. Thanks to OCW I get to also learn about the subjects that my friends are studying and this enables me to have academic conversations and sometimes jokes too! Amaan, Student, Mauritius
Image of Gil Strang walking into class. Photo: Eldar Shakirov

3+2+61=66, or 75% of Professor of Mathematics Gilbert “Gil” Strang’s ’55 life at MIT — spent as a student, an instructor, and a faculty member.​

Math Fans Join Live Sendoff for Gil Strang

 

On May 15th, revered mathematics professor Gilbert Strang capped a 61-year career as a faculty member at MIT by delivering his final lecture before retiring at the age of 88. Among those present were not only the students from his course 18.06 Linear Algebra—which saw record enrollment this semester, as he would be teaching the subject for the last time—but also numerous family members, friends, and colleagues. But the hundreds of in-person attendees weren’t the only ones who saw the lecture; Prof. Strang generously agreed to have the lecture livestreamed on YouTube so that those who couldn’t be present in person could experience this special lecture remotely. As it turned out, public interest was even higher than the organizers had expected—the total live audience, in person and remote, amounted to more than 6000 people, and the recording of the event racked up about 200,000 further views on YouTube in the first 48 hours after it was available.

 

Tributes from Near and Far

Before Prof. Strang began his lecture, some introductory words were offered via video by his colleague Alan Edelman; after the lecture, his former PhD student Pavel Grinfeld and MIT Mathematics department head Michel Goemans offered their own recollections, appreciations, and congratulations. Concurrently, the chat stream on YouTube displayed an outpouring of greetings and appreciative comments from viewers in at least 50 different countries around the world. And viewers’ comments on the recorded video have been similarly laudatory:

“Teaching math in a way that instills a love for the subject is a challenging task, much harder than solving complex equations. But your teaching style effortlessly achieves this.”

“Thank you professor, the world is a better place with you in it.”

“He taught my friend, his daughter, and her son. Three generations had the pleasure of being taught by this brilliant man.”

“The best teacher I never had. But thanks to MIT for sharing his linear algebra lectures. He has been a blessing for thousands of his students.”

“I can’t believe this legend is retiring. At least his former lectures will be available for future students.”

We at MIT OpenCourseWare are grateful to have been able to play a role in making Prof. Strang’s teaching available to future generations; he was one of the first faculty members to share their course materials with the world through OCW, and in the past twenty years, his courses on OCW have been viewed over twenty million times. We expect that level of interest to continue for years to come.

Courses by Prof. Strang on OCW:

Supplemental resources by Prof. Strang on OCW:

Video interviews:

Chalk Radio podcast interview:

OCW’s staff, insights, and capacities enable teachers to think more broadly about how to engage audiences beyond the MIT campus. I have found that rethinking my teaching, and efforts to engage the public on energy and climate, increasingly complement one another. -David Hsu Associate Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning, MIT

“You have three powerful forces coming together again, the HBCUs, and MIT, Merlot. The need is worldwide for people of all races, underrepresented populations to be able to access information, and to tap in to rich cultural resources to help them in their academic journey.”​

–Dr. Robbie Melton

From Open Access to Educational Equity: An HBCU+MERLOT+MIT OCW Collaboration

Over the past couple of decades, we’ve witnessed how open access to knowledge has empowered so many people to transform their lives and build new opportunities in their communities.

Hundreds of millions of people – from enrolled students to lifelong learners – have benefited from this growing ethos of open sharing, using materials from MIT OpenCourseWare and across the growing global Open Education Resources (OER) movement.

Yet free access to knowledge, by itself, is not enough. At OCW, we stand with all in the open knowledge ecosystem working for a world where everyone can put knowledge into action. And for a world where everyone can contribute their knowledge to make the progress relevant and inclusive.

A dynamic OER joint effort

In this context, MIT OpenCourseWare is honored to begin a collaboration with a network of US-based Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) who are adopting and adapting OER to improve the educational opportunities of their students.

For several years, the HBCU Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) initiative has been building HBCU faculty capacity to use OER, delivering immediate benefits to students by saving them thousands of dollars in textbook costs, improving course outcomes and reducing financial stress. As they note, “students cannot learn from books they cannot afford.”

HBCU AL$ is a collaboration with the OER repository MERLOT and supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In its first three years, the HBCU AL$ community has grown to 26 schools with 88 participating faculty, and has delivered significant cost savings for students.

Now an HBCU AL$ Cultural Collections program is beginning to curate OER, and support adaptations and new content creation, which are culturally relevant for African American and Africana students. MIT OpenCourseWare and MIT faculty will work together with HBCU faculty and staff to expand the HBCU Cultural Collections by identifying and curating appropriate OER material, and adapting and extending materials from OCW to be more culturally relevant for HBCU students.

We started back in March 2022 with this inspiring webinar, beginning to explore the possibilities of working more closely together.

 

A convening of like-minded advocates

In late October, we were thrilled to spend two days at MIT with some OER leaders from Bethune-Cookman University, Central State University, Edward Waters University, Morehouse College, and Tennessee State University, along with the MERLOT team. Our goal was to spark connections between faculty and staff interested in creating or teaching with culturally relevant OER, and create a generative environment for specific collaborations to emerge and thrive.

We got to know each other better, shared our visions for the future, connected about challenges, and laid a foundation for how the teams will proceed. We shared many heartfelt moments, and lots of cheering and hearty laughter.  And we announced that a new unit of academic energy has been named the Melton – “what happens when an unstoppable force vanquishes academic inertia” – in honor of Dr. Robbie Melton, Tennessee State University’s acting provost and the HBCU leader of this initiative.

MIT Chancellor Melissa Nobles, who has deep family ties to the AL$ national hub Tennessee State University and other HBCUs, gave the group a rousing welcome on the first day. A few highlights:

  • Chancellor Nobles emphasized the importance of collaborating across disciplines, because diversity strengthens essential fields like science. See her co-authored editorials for Nature’s 2022 special edition “Racism: Overcoming science’s toxic legacy” for more.
  • We put into practice her direction to “focus on the connections that you are forging with each other”, as “gathering and convening can do the most to get us all started.”
  • Her closing questions, “What are the possibilities here? What can we build together?” continues to echo and inspire our work.

 

The second day of discussions connected this collaboration with the Open 2030 Working Group, a broader community of open education thought leaders convened by MIT Open Learning which focuses on building educational equity and social justice through OER.

This video provides context of our collaboration.

As we embark on this collaboration with HBCUs and MERLOT, we want to acknowledge the many dedicated and creative educators who are reaching students everyday with more culturally relevant materials and practices. If you’ve adapted OCW materials, especially in order to make them more culturally relevant for your context, we invite you to share your ideas and experiences through the OCW Educator portal.

OCW Publication

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More Feedback on OCW

OCW helped me learn through examples and then help other teachers. I am an Instructional Designer and Project Manager at Politecnico di Milano, Italy. I often talk with faculty about sharing their expertise through OER and I always, always bring OCW as one of the main exemplary case studies for teaching materials, assessment, educators insights, shared exams, etc. PAOLA, EDUCATOR, ITALY
Thank you for believing in our work
OCW makes it possible to attend a first class university without the need to get there and pay for it. Miraculous, utterly miraculous! JERRY, OCW SUPPORTER

“OpenCourseWare continues to be a big part of my career. My foundation is linked to it — I don’t know if I would be the same engineer today if not for OpenCourseWare.

— Chansa Kabwe

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Coding the future with MIT OpenCourseWare

Learner Chansa Kabwe pursued a rigorous course of study in electrical engineering and computer science to broaden his horizons

Photo of a man with a beard and glasses, wearing a hat and sweater, sitting in a cafe with his hand resting under his chin.
Photo courtesy of Chansa Kabwe

By Angela Pignatiello

Chansa Kabwe, a machine learning engineer and MIT OpenCourseWare learner from Zambia, is a shining example of how to forge — or perhaps code — one’s own future. A go-getter from the start, Kabwe cites his father as a driving force behind his early love of math and science. “My education has always been an important part of my life,” he recounts. When he discovered Honda’s ASIMO robot on National Television in the early 2000s, his interest was further piqued. “It was my first time seeing a real-life robot, like in the movies,” says Kabwe, who was between 11 and 12 years old at the time. Amazed, he wanted to learn how to work and play with the robots.

Kabwe continued to pursue science through his time at a national technical high school, where he was involved in STEM activities and competitions. Upon graduation he knew he wanted to study robotics, but there were no such programs to speak of in the country at that time. He resolved to major in electronics engineering at the University of Zambia, but that pull towards robotics never left him.

During his freshman year of college, Kabwe had free and unrestricted access to the internet for the first time. He searched the rankings of top colleges and engineering programs. Up until then, he had never heard of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “I saw that for engineering, ever since they had started ranking, MIT had always been number one,” he recalls. “And I was like, okay — they are doing something. Let me check them out.”

MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) program intrigued him, and when he came upon MIT OpenCourseWare, he found a series of archived EECS classes as taught in a given term, with all available resources put online.

Using outlines from the EECS undergraduate degree track as laid out on the department’s website, Kabwe discovered math, programming, foundations, and elective classes to create his own EECS experience. He decided to dedicate any time reserved for individual studies to learning through these resources. He essentially took on two courseloads — one in his studies at the University of Zambia, and another of his own design through OpenCourseWare.

Chansa Kabwe credits Prof. Eric Grimson’s 6.00 Introduction to Computer Science and Programming course with helping him think like a computer scientist.

He began with 6.00 Introduction to Computer Science and Programming with Prof. Eric Grimson. “This course taught me how to think like a computer scientist — that was the essence of the course,” he says, crediting the course, as well as 6.002 Circuits and Electronics with Prof. Anant Agarwal, with giving him a solid foundation to bring to his university coursework.

“I learned from zero; I had never done any programming before. It was very revealing for me,” says Kabwe, who has since become a donor to OpenCourseWare. As his college career progressed, these resources became more and more helpful in his studies. “I didn’t really need to learn any completely new things, especially on the electronics side. Everything in the foundations was covered — I didn’t feel the need to catch up. I was revising.”

By senior year, Kabwe found a niche of robotics that spoke to him: artificial intelligence. 6.01 Introduction to Electrical Engineering and Computer Science I had introduced him to search algorithms, an important area of AI, and in September 2011, Kabwe started his first course on artificial intelligence, 6.034. “There’s evolution happening in industry and in the world at large,” he says.

Now, Kabwe is a machine learning engineer for startup Digest AI, where he builds language models for digital learning assistants. “OpenCourseWare continues to be a big part of my career. My foundation is linked to it — I don’t know if I would be the same engineer today if not for OpenCourseWare,” says Kabwe.

I was an “early adopter” of OCW, having contributed teaching materials from several courses since its inception. I have seen the impact it can have through chance encounters with so many people outside of the Institute. I really believe that OCW is good for MIT but is even better for the world. -Sara Ellison Senior Lecturer in Economics, MIT

“I’ve learned MIT does so much more than I ever imagined to help facilitate different learning styles.”

–Brett Paci

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Behind the Scenes with OCW’s Chalk Radio Team

 

By Yvonne Ng

Now in its fourth season, OCW Chalk Radio has drawn thousands of listeners, who tune in to hear from MIT educators about their cutting-edge research and innovative teaching, along with candid, funny, and personal insights into their profession. Behind the scenes of the podcast, Sarah Hansen, Brett Paci, Dave Lishansky, and Peter Chipman help bring to light the motivations, intentions, and creativity that underscore teaching at MIT.

Image of OCW podcast team - Sarah Hansen, Brett Paci, Dave Lishansky, and Peter Chipman

A wide range of expertise

The podcast runs the gamut of MIT subjects; past episodes have covered such topics as nuclear engineering, financial technology, climate change, linguistics, film, and artificial intelligence literacy. However, a unifying perspective is the teaching philosophies and approaches that engage and encourage learners to develop their critical thinking and creativity.

“When you show someone something surprising, they’re fully engaged. They’re always multi-sensory engaged. They’re listening. In a lot of cases, they’re touching, in some cases, even smelling. Taste is the sense that we don’t tend to engage in nuclear science, with good reason.”

-Professor Mike Short on using hands-on instruction to teach 22.01 Introduction to Nuclear Engineering and Ionizing Radiation

Some of the connective threads among episodes include democratizing knowledge, personalizing learning, mentoring students and teachers, and humanizing education. As students learn from teachers and teachers learn from their students, a wonderful reciprocity blossoms between them that deepens understanding and bolsters excellence.

Chalk Radio Team Fun Facts

    1. The Chalk Radio name was inspired by the many MIT instructors who still love using chalk to show their thinking as they work on a problem in real time. And in many ways, that’s what guests are doing on the show: they’re talking through how they teach, sharing what worked, what didn’t, and inviting us to learn along with them. Also, Chalk Radio sounded catchy because it resembled “Talk Radio.”
    2. The Chalk Radio tape animation is on its’ third version due to feedback from the podcast’s eagle-eyed followers. This version includes previous feedback like the tape amounts changing to match the podcast playback length and matching spindle speeds and tape changes.
    3. The only “great” thing that we record but do not share with the world is during the recording of episode narrations when Sarah and I sing 80’s TV theme songs for our co-producer Dave Lishansky. (Editing is tough; we like to “reward” him!)- Brett Paci on what gets edited out of a podcast episode.It is one of my absolute favorite things! The harmonies especially 🙂 – Dave Lishansky.
    4. The Chalk Radio name was inspired by the many MIT instructors who still love using chalk to show their thinking as they work on a problem in real time. And in many ways, that’s what guests are doing on the show: they’re talking through how they teach, sharing what worked, what didn’t, and inviting us to learn along with them. Also, Chalk Radio sounded catchy because it resembled “Talk Radio.”

A learning future

Chalk Radio episodes have been downloaded more than 270,000 times and viewed on YouTube more than 600,000 times since the podcast launched in February 2020. This success motivates Hansen and her team to explore new themes, topics, and interviews.

Paci says, “I’ve learned MIT does so much more than I ever imagined to help facilitate different learning styles. There’s a focused effort to balance structure and open-endedness that allows students to explore what they’re interested in, while still giving them the support they need to learn and create. (You’ll hear more about this in an upcoming episode on MIT Terrascope, so stay tuned)!”

On their conversation wish list, notes Hansen, are “educators in the world who have adopted or adapted OER from OCW for learners at their own institutions. These stories are so powerful!” Hansen also mentions, “We’d love to have President Sally Kornbluth on the show to talk about her vision for the Institute, her focus on climate, and her approach to supporting MIT educators and students. She sometimes records podcasts in our Open Learning podcast studio, so we think our chances could be good!”

> Read more fun facts about the team.

Chalk Radio by the Numbers

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“This is what OpenCourseWare has enabled me to do: I get the chance to not only watch the future happen, but I can actually be a part of it and create it.

–Emmanuel Kasigazi

Emmanuel Kasigazi headshot

A whole new world of learning via MIT OpenCourseWare videos

“I get the chance to not only watch the future happen, but I can actually be a part of it and create it,” says Ugandan entrepreneur Emmanuel Kasigazi

By Duyen Nguyen

Like millions of others during the global Covid-19 lockdowns, Emmanuel Kasigazi, an entrepreneur from Uganda, turned to YouTube to pass the time. But he wasn’t following an influencer or watching music videos. A lifelong learner, Kasigazi was scouring the video-sharing platform for educational resources. Since 2013, when he got his first smartphone, Kasigazi has been charting his own learning journey through YouTube, educating himself on subjects as diverse as psychology and artificial intelligence. And it was while searching for the answer to an AI-related question that Kasigazi first discovered MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW).

“The search results showed MIT lectures, and I thought, ‘Which MIT is this?’” recalls Kasigazi, who admits he was initially skeptical as he opened the OCW YouTube channel. To his amazement, he found hundreds of courses there — not only clips, but complete lectures that he could follow alongside the students in MIT classrooms. He searched for more information on OCW and tried the channel on different browsers to triple-check its credibility. “Here they were, all these courses by one of the best — if not the best — schools in tech in the world, and they were free. For a long time I couldn’t believe it. I told everyone I knew,” he remembers.

“This is what OpenCourseWare has enabled me to do: I get the chance to not only watch the future happen, but I can actually be a part of it and create it.”

For Kasigazi, the channel became a gateway to other open education resources, including the OpenCourseWare website and MITx courses, both part of MIT Open Learning. “I always had the questions — I grew up on science cartoons like ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’ and ‘Pinky and the Brain’- so I would go on YouTube to try to find answers to these questions, and I found this whole other world,” he says.

OCW launched its YouTube channel in 2008, and this August passed 4 million subscribers. While introductory computer science, math, and physics are the most-visited courses on the OCW website, the most popular YouTube videos reflect a more diverse range of interests, including a lecture about piloting a fighter jet aircraft, an introduction to the human brain, and an introduction to financial terms and concepts.

Through this extensive collection, Kasigazi explains that he’s been able to explore “the things I love,” while also studying cloud computing, data science, and AI — fields that he plans to pursue in graduate studies. He says, “This is what OpenCourseWare has enabled me to do: I get the chance to not only watch the future happen, but I can actually be a part of it and create it.”

Understanding humanity through the liberal arts

When Kasigazi was young, a beloved aunt recognized his natural curiosity and steered him toward the best schools. “I owe her everything,” he says, “everything I am is because of her.” Thanks to his excellent grades he received an academic scholarship from the Ugandan government to attend Makerere University, one of the top universities in sub-Saharan Africa, where he earned a degree in information systems. Having pursued IT for its practical applications, Kasigazi admits that he was initially more interested in the science and theory behind computers than “the coding bits of it.”

“I love the concept of it — how we are trying to make these machines,” he says, explaining that he’s long been drawn to the social sciences and humanities, particularly psychology and philosophy.

“I’m interested in how we work as human beings, because everything we do is for, with, and around human beings.”

“I’m interested in how we work as human beings, because everything we do is for, with, and around human beings,” says Kasigazi, who considers psychology to be foundational to almost every field. “Whatever it is you’re teaching these kids, they’re going to be dealing with people. So first teach them what people think, how they act — that was my drive to love psychology.”

Kasigazi has also turned to OCW to brush up on his coding skills, watching 6.0001 (Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python) lectures with Professor Ana Bell and reviewing the instructor-paced version with Professor Eric Grimson now on MITx. “I am proud to say MIT OCW has made me fall in love with coding … it makes sense like it never has before,” he says.

Nurturing a worldview

In 2014 Kasigazi moved to South Sudan, which had only recently emerged from a civil war as an independent nation. Fresh out of university, he was there to teach computer skills and graphic design — some of his students included members of the new country’s government — but his time in South Sudan quickly became a learning experience for him, too. “When you grow up in your community, you have this bubble. We all experience it — it’s a human thing,” he reflects. “For the first time, I realized that everything I knew is not a given. Everything I grew up knowing is not universal.”

With his worldview newly broadened, he began to nurture his interest in psychology, philosophy, and the sciences, watching crash courses, explainer videos, and other content on the subject. “It’s entertainment, to me, at the same time that it’s a passion,” he says. Today Kasigazi runs his own company, which he started in 2012 with friends and resumed when he returned to Uganda seven years ago.

“I am proud to say MIT OCW has made me fall in love with coding … it makes sense like it never has before.”

Since coming across the OCW YouTube channel, Kasigazi has worked through all of the freely available MIT psychology courses. Professor John Gabrieli’s 9.00SC (Introduction to Psychology) have particularly resonated with him, even prompting him to reach out to Gabrieli. “As much as I’d been getting some knowledge on psychology over the years online, it wasn’t as deep and as interesting or captivating as your classes were,” he wrote. “From your teaching style, to the explanations, to the topics, to how you make people understand a topic, to the experiments mentioned and referenced, to how you approach questions and later make one think deeper about them.”

“The message from Emmanuel is deeply touching about the joy of learning,” says Gabrieli. “I am so grateful to OCW for making this course on psychology open to the world, and to Emmanuel for so delightfully sharing what this course meant to him.”

New courses are added regularly to both the OCW website and YouTube channel. Kasigazi, who’s currently enjoying Professor Nancy Kanwisher’s 9.13 (Introduction to the Human Brain), looks forward to discovering what new worlds of knowledge they’ll open.

Originally published at https://news.mit.edu on November 7, 2022.

OCW’s YouTube Channel by the Numbers

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What OCW Learners Say

I can learn a lot of things in depth with the help of MIT OCW. The materials are so great. I will continue using OCW even if I graduate from university. Thank you for your contributions and I hope OCW will become better and better even if it's excellent right now. Jia Jun, Student - College/University, China OCW helped me a lot in the last three years. Without online courses like yours I wouldn't know what to do or how to be updated with the latest science in my field especially in deep learning and its related math. From all of my heart, thank you for your efforts and your great lectures. Ahmed, Student - College/University, Egypt OCW helped me work and improve more of my conceptual knowledge of science. Rudra, Student - High School, India