OpenFiction [Blog]

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.


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