OpenFiction [Blog]

More math

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, open education, OpenCourseWare, OpenCourseWare Consortium, web metrics by scarsonmsm on December 21, 2009

Apple is announcing the 100 millionth download from iTunes U.  Our internal numbers have 4.58 million downloads of MIT OpenCourseWare content from iTunes U, so even my poor math skills can figure we are close to 1 in every 20 files downloaded.  Many of our OCW Consortium bretheren are also figuring significanly in the iTunes U downloads list, including OU UK and UC Berkeley.

1 million visit mark for H4HS

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare by scarsonmsm on December 18, 2009

While MIT OpenCourseWare continues to crank out the big numbers, our Highlights for High School portal is generating digits of its own.  Last month, Highlights received its one millionth visit since launch in November 2007.  Congrats to the Highlights team.  Here’s a taste of the (well-written, in my opinion) press release:

Highlights for High School Marks 1,000,000th Visit

As President Obama announces new focus on STEM education, OCW initiative reaches milestone

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., December 9, 2009 – As President Obama announces the new federal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education initiative “Educate to Innovate“, MIT OpenCourseWare’s own STEM initiative, Highlights for High School, celebrates its one millionth visit. President Obama’s initiative calls for a national campaign to raise American students “from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math over the next decade.”

Launched in 2007, Highlights for High School is intended to do just that. The site features more than 2,600 video and audio clips, animations, lecture notes and assignments taken from actual MIT courses, and categorizes them to match the Advanced Placement physics, biology and calculus curricula. Demonstrations, simulations, and animations give educators engaging ways to present STEM concepts, while videos illustrate MIT’s hands-on approach to the teaching of these subjects.

MIT President Susan Hockfield described the Institute’s motivation for the program at its November 2007 launch. “Strength in K-12 math and science will be increasingly important for America if the nation is to continue to lead in today’s innovation economy,” said MIT President Hockfield. “Highlights for High School will provide students and teachers with innovative tools to supplement their math and science studies. We hope it will inspire students to reach beyond their required classwork to explore more advanced material and might also encourage them to pursue careers in science and engineering.”

What’s a brother got to do to stay cutting-edge?

Posted in education, open education, Open Educational Resources by scarsonmsm on December 18, 2009

My good friends over at P2PU are looking for a convener for a P2P course using MIT OpenCourseWare Physics materials, which they refer to as “traditional OCW.”  While it makes us seem like the dottering old uncle of the OCW world, I nonetheless applaud the effort and encourage anyone who is interested to check out the opportunity.  These young whippersnappers are doing really interesting stuff in the open ed space.

LINC 2010 – University Leadership: Bringing Technology-Enabled Education to Learners of All Ages

Posted in education, OpenCourseWare by scarsonmsm on December 16, 2009

I’m happy to share that MIT President Emeritus Charles Vest, who was MIT’s president at the inception of MIT OpenCourseWare, will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming LINC 2010 conference on MIT’s campus this May. This conference promises to be a great opportunity for global discussion of OCW and other technology-enabled education projects. Details included below.


The Fifth International Conference of
MIT Learning International Networks Consortium (LINC)

May 23-26, 2010
University Leadership: Bringing
Technology-Enabled Education to Learners of All Ages
On the campus of MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts USA

MIT LINC is an international community of individuals and organizations that focuses on higher education in emerging countries and the role that technology can play in expanding educational reach. It is a collaboration of educators from around the world whose purpose is to share best practices and to learn from each other’s mistakes, in order to move forward with successful e-learning projects in their home countries.

With the 2010 theme, “University Leadership: Bringing Technology-Enabled Education to Learners of All Ages”, the consortium intends to showcase examples where universities are increasing usage of e-learning by reaching down to K-12 education or reaching up to lifelong learners. If technology-enabled education is to contribute to the social and economic development of emerging nations, it must move beyond the university to improve K-12 schooling and to create a culture of lifelong learning.

Plenary speakers include rectors of the leading virtual universities in Latin America, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The keynote plenary speaker is Dr. Charles M. Vest, President of the National Academy of Engineering and President-Emeritus of MIT. Other plenary speakers include educational leaders from business and government.

LINC 2010 participants will travel from all parts of the world as representatives of universities, government, corporations, foundations, K-12 education and lifelong learning initiatives. Each will come to share an international forum with others who understand the challenges faced by emerging nations in achieving the transformational potential of technology-enabled teaching and learning. Innovative technologies and content will be presented and explored, along with the policies and pedagogies that make them successful. In the end, as with previous LINC conferences, valuable contacts will be made, strategic relationships developed and exciting educational collaborations begun.

More information available here.

Better math

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenCourseWare, sustainability by scarsonmsm on December 10, 2009

Cross-posting my response to David Wiley’s recent struggles with math on iterating toward openness:

I appreciate you ringing the alarm bells for us, but the math you’ve applied to the Tech article numbers is way off, and I’d hate for the OER community to walk away with the wrong impression. MIT has over time assumed a greater and greater percentage of the cost of OCW, so while historically the grant support is 72% (which includes a major corporate gift as well), it currently covers just south of 40% of our expenses.

We have reserves to cover this part of our budget for FY10-12 as well. And while we have been ramping up our visitor donation campaigns (2 per year + an end of year ask) and visitor donations will be an important part of our sustainability (as they are with other big OER such as Wikipedia), we are certainly not banking on that as the only revenue. If you want to read a better account of MIT OpenCourseWare’s sustainability picture, I suggest

All of which is not to say the MIT OpenCourseWare doesn’t have it’s sustainability challenges.  Clearly we do.  But they are not nealy as dire as David’s post would make them out to be, and they are not a surprise.  We’ve been working with the MIT community for several years to identify the funding approach that is most consistent with the mission and spirit of OCW and the culture of MIT.

I believe it’s time well invested to have a careful community discussion on this issue and am fortunate to see the support for the program at all levels of the community on a daily basis.  It gives me great confidence that we’ll find the right combination soon, and I think it already says a lot that about MIT that in the face of the current economic climate, the Insitute has maintained its commitmment to OCW.

Numbers update

Posted in Evaluation, MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenCourseWare, web metrics by scarsonmsm on December 8, 2009

I reported earlier this year that OCW had surpassed three billion hits (or files delivered from our servers) since we started the program.  This is sort of a raw volume take on our traffic.  I’m happy and astounded to report that we’ve now passed four billion hits.  It took 5 1/2 years to generate three billion and nine months to generate the next billion. Astounding.

Here are more numbers as of end of November:

  • Hits: 4,056,299,399
  • Total visits to the OCW site: 58,203,827
  • Total visits to OCW content on our site and translator sites:  88,511,310
  • Total page views: 453,183,410 (does not include PDF access)
  • Zip files downloaded: 10,570,129
  • iTunes U downloads of video/audio files: 4,588,808
  • YouTube views: 7,416,403

There is smoke coming out of the odometer…

For the record

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenCourseWare, sustainability by scarsonmsm on December 8, 2009

From today’s MIT student newspaper opinion section:

As we are all aware, MIT has and will continue to make relatively large cuts to its budget in light of the recent financial meltdown. The administration established the Institute-Wide Planning Task Force to evaluate ways to make these cuts with minimal impact to the MIT community. One proposal is to cut funding to OpenCourseWare (OCW) or continue funding only until the grant funding that has paid for 72 percent of OCW since its creation runs out. For those not familiar with OCW, it is a brilliant piece of intellectual philanthropy that MIT opened to the public in September of 2002. Essentially, anyone in the world can access the same knowledge and information that MIT students are inundated with by classes. Not just a few classes here and there in the most common disciplines ­— as of May 2006 there were 1400 courses online. This is an unbelievable resource that has been utilized by about 60 million people, both on and off the campus. Twenty years ago, the thought that one could log onto a computer and access nearly the entire curriculum at MIT would be unthinkable. But now it can be done.

The piece goes on to urge continued funding for OCW.  I really appreciate the expression of support for OCW coming from an MIT student, but so far as I know there is no Task Force recommendation to end funding for OCW.

It may be this is confusion stemming from some of the discussions we’ve had recently regarding OCW sustainability, where it’s been stated that if MIT continues to fund OCW at the current rate that it does (roughly half the ongoing cost), we’ll run through our grant reserves by FY 2012 and will either have to find additional sources of revenue or shrink the program.

MIT continues to fund the program generously in the midst of significant economic challanges, and I’ve seen no indication MIT is backing off on that commitment, but it’s unrealistic to expect MIT will be able to assume the full cost in the near term.   We need to supplement the MIT support with other revenue if we are to keep OCW vibrant and up-to-date.  This is a known challange, however, one we’ve been working for quite some time to address.