OpenFiction [Blog]

Goes to show you never can tell

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on December 9, 2008

Judging by the MIT OCW news coverage, you’d think that 8.01 Physics or 18.06 Linear Algebra would be the most heavily trafficed courses on OCW, and most weeks you’d be right.  These video-rich courses have gotten the lion’s share of the media coverage and are intro courses that appeal to broad audiences.

But this week they are garnering far less interest than an Ancient Philosophy course, which to me highlights the unpredictability inherent in sharing educational resources openly.  Last Sunday, someone flagged the lecture notes of 24.200 on StumbleUpon, and it’s currently number 3 on the Philosophy page.  The notice generated more than 30,000 visits to the lecture notes page alone on November 30th, and continues to drive thousands of visits a week and a day later (5,000 yesterday).

Here’s a course that has been sitting on our site for three years, has really great lecture notes but no rich media and is not a topic one would immediately think of as an attention-getter, and yet with the right exposure to the right audience, generates tremendous interest.  This is another exaple of why my tendancies lean toward publishing simply and widely, ’cause you never can tell what material will be useful or interesting to whom.

The traffic spike also illustrates the value of social reccommender sites like StumbleUpon and Digg.  Don’t be shocked to see expanded recommendation support on the OCW site soon.

One Response

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  1. mikecaulfield said, on December 9, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I like the term “The Long Tail of the Past” to describe the interest the digital age has spawned in back catalog stuff — this seems related in a way (though it’s a spike on a single back catalog element, not a wide dispersion among many elements).

    It’s a sign, I think, that OCW, like most digital media, is coming to terms with a world which is not release-driven and demand-driven in the way it was in the past. Product visibility used to occur through a very narrow funnel that was mostly time-driven. And production was expensive. In that world, there was a lot of energy and salary spent on determining on what people wanted precisely, right now.

    Now that media filter is eroding and production is really cheap. That really radically changes things in ways that I don’t think we’ve fully come to terms with yet.


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