OpenFiction [Blog]

What looks like hope

Posted in Evaluation, MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenCourseWare, web metrics by scarsonmsm on October 28, 2009

While I think that OCW has a lot to offer the schools that participate and people in developed economies, it is the impact OCW can have on the developing world that really gets me jazzed.  In particular, what OCW has to offer regions that the US has historically been at odds with.

Iran is a clear case.  A large percentage of the population is young, opportunities are limited, and the government teaches antipathy toward the US.  OCW (at least from the US schools) provides another view of the US and what it has to offer.  Here’s a snapshot of our analytics that gives me hope that we can develop a bridge to young Iranians seeking a more positive future.

Map of Iran showing more than 130,000 visits from 39 cities.

Hopeful metrics.

These are 2009 visits to date.  What I like best is that there are 39 cities represented here.  A map of Afghanistan or Pakistan shows visits mostly in the main urban centers (obviously infrastructure is a big reason) but in Iran, our site is being accessed by people throughout the country in sifgnificant numbers.

Platform notes

Posted in Evaluation, MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenCourseWare by scarsonmsm on October 23, 2009

Looking through site metrics for MIT OCW and noticed two interesting tidbits:

  • Firefox now has a bigger market share than IE as measured in visits (41.5% vs. 40.5%)
  • More than 13,000 visits to OCW have come from iPhones so far in October

Interesting stuff.

OCW comes home

Posted in OpenCourseWare, OpenCourseWare Consortium by scarsonmsm on October 22, 2009

For me anyway.  NERCOMP held a session on OpenCourseWare at the Four Points Sheraton in sleepy little Norwood, MA—about a mile from my house—and what a pleasant time.  I got to see many of my favorite people from local OCW projects, who I sadly see less frequently than some of the international participants.

Eileen McMahon, Senior Instructional Designer, University of Massachusetts —Boston and Robbin Smith of Tufts OCW co-organized the session and two of my MIT colleagues—Lindsey Weeramuni and and Kate James—gave really great presentations. Former OCW Consortium Interim Executive Director and good friend Terri Bays was up from Yale and spoke as well.  And a really special surprise was seeing Kimberly Hall, a friend and former colleague from my time at Emerson College.

But just as exciting as seeing all the good folks in the community was the presence of so many regional institutions interested in OCW.  There were at least a half dozen New England colleges and universities represented that I hadn’t previously known to be interested in OCW.  It makes me reconsider the idea of a New England chapter of the OCW Consortium.  I also had the chance to say hi to Ken Udas, late of Penn State and now moved to UMass Online.  Really great to have a thought leader like Ken in the area.

All in all, a day well spent.

Sustainability overview for MIT OpenCourseWare

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, sustainability by scarsonmsm on October 21, 2009

In the latest edition of the MIT Faculty Newsletter, we’ve published an article updating the MIT community on the current financial situation of MIT OpenCourseWare, and it serves as an excellent snapshot of where we are at this point in addressing the project’s revenue needs (and also a laundry list of the things I’ve been spending my time on).

In general, we’re moving from exploration to implementation on a couple of programs OCW is well-positioned to execute on independently with the approval of stakeholders (small gifts, the Course Champions program), and participating in broader discussions of how OCW might continue to serve its mission while acting as infrastructure for other types of Insititute initiatives requiring broader MIT community contributions.

It’s important to note that these are all in the brainstorming and evaluation stages, but they indicate some of the directions the community discussion has taken.  One big takeaway: there is no single silver bullet, but there is likely a combination of approaches that can work in the long run.

Maybe I expect less

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenCourseWare by scarsonmsm on October 13, 2009

from the Chronicle of Higher Education, or perhaps I read all of the articles contained in there current issue on OCW at once—including the really nice profiles of those who benefit from it—but I didn’t have as negative a response as Stephen Downes to the lead piece. True, Utah Sate University has been mothballed, users would like accreditation and there are always those who will dis the quality of a free offering, but I think the real story here is that there 250+ other projects that have kept going in spite of the terrible economic circumstances, and they must be carrying on for a reason. Absent in the article is the question of what benefits the schools receive for their investment, which I think the Chronicle should explore.  It doen’t have the sensationality of the doom and gloom predictions, but it is probably the most interesting question to be asked.  Also interesting that buried in the report about the cost is the information that the second-largest OCW in the US costs only $120K a year to operate.  Maybe not so costly after all.

The Champions

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, sustainability by scarsonmsm on October 6, 2009

ask_4Most of my professional time in the past few months has been spent implementing some new sustainability initiatives on the OCW site.  The pilot stages of some of them are beginning to appear on the site.  One prominent one is the new Course Champions program, essentially a “buy-a-brick” model that allows OCW supporters to have their gift recognized on a specific OCW course.

The program itself is deceptively simple, but launching this plus some of the other initiatives we’ve just gotten under way has been a tremendous amount of stakeholder communication, reflecting the complexity of working within a major educational insitution.  I can safely say that getting these programs off the ground required a higher volume of daily e-mail communication duing the pilot launch that did publishing many of the actual courses I worked on.

The sustainability programs we are rolling out this fall are the ones we feel we can handle on our own, given stakeholder buy in.  The next steps down the path might include initiatives that require not just the buy-in of the community, but the active involvement at some level of portions of the community.  I’m trying to imagine the level of communication and coordination for some of these next steps, and getting tired already.