“It’s just content”
A quote by USU grad student Preston Parker from a recent e-mail I was cc:’d on. Preston was describing the OCW concept to someone and included the following (which he later posted on his blog):
OCW began with no intention of being instructional. The goal was to just put course content online and make it available to the world. What the world did with it was up to them. Many have tried to come up with ways to make the content instructional….and that’s a great quest, but no one knows how to do it yet…we are still investigating. Just remember, that, as OCW is now, it is not instructional…it’s just content.
I might have said “OCW began with the hope that the materials would have some educational value, but no expectation that they would provide stand-alone instructional benefit.” Regardless, I do think at least for MIT OCW, it is good to keep in mind that it is, as Preston says, “just content.” I do believe that one of the strengths of the project is that it marries MIT strength–classroom-based instructional materials–with the internet’s strength–content distribution.
There was no clear understanding of how the materials might be used, other than that other instructors might be able to use them much in the same way that colleagues share syllabi informally. In that light, though, I do think it’s remarkable that about half of our users are not affiliated with educational institutions. Understanding how they use the site I think will be key to understanding what instructional benefit the site does provide.