OpenFiction [Blog]

NYT/IHT reprints erroneous information on OCW paywall

The New York Times/International Herald Tribune has reprinted erroneous information from last week’s University World News article suggesting OCW was considering a paywall. Sure wish they had called to confirm the story, which is completely false, and based on a misinterpretation by the UWN writer of comments made by an MIT official. OCW will remain free and open.

Dealing with copyright in OCW

Posted in intellectual property, open education, Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare by scarsonmsm on September 22, 2010

Another really nice piece by Ethan Watrall in the Chronicle that provides advice to individual educators looking to share their educational materials openly. This one deals with copyright issues in OCW, specifically how to manage third-party content. Generally he discusses three options:

  • Use authentication judiciously
  • Use only openly licensed materials, and
  • Use your nerve, and just put it out there

I’ve seen all three of the above used with success. To them, I’d add a couple of other strategies:

  • Just ask: In a digital age, it’s not that hard to locate owners of content, and a surprising number will allow you to publish their materials under an open license
  • Paraphrase: Content is not code, something I can never say too much–you can copyright the expression of an idea, but not the idea itself, so short of creative writing, most text content can be effectively rephrased. Likewise, data cannot be copyrighted, only its presentation. Data from charts and graphs can be used to create new, openly licensed charts and graphs.
  • Poke around: Many journal articles that appear in traditional journals are also posted openly in preprint from. You may find open what at first appears closed.

But nonetheless, I appreciate Ethan’s ongoing efforts to encourage and empower individual educators to share their materials. ‘Course, I am not a lawyer, so this is not to be considered definitive legal advice.

MIT OpenCourseWare teams up with OpenStudy to help OCW users connect and study together

Thousands of OCW visitors interact on pilot OCW OpenStudy groups; program expanded.

CAMBRIDGE, MA, September 20, 2010 — MIT OpenCourseWare and OpenStudy are are teaming up to help OCW users connect and study together. MIT has been publishing the core academic materials—including syllabi, lecture notes, assignments and exams—from the Institute’s courses since 2002, but since inception, the site has been a static presentation of MIT materials with no opportunity to interact with the MIT community or other users of the site.

Starting last month, however, a pilot of OpenStudy groups in association with three OCW courses has attracted thousands of OCW visitors. OpenStudy groups support real-time interaction between students and independent learners from around the world. OpenStudy members can answer one another’s questions, work collaboratively on problem sets and connect with learners who share interests. The study groups are sponsored by MIT OpenCourseWare and OpenStudy, but are not moderated or facilitated directly by either organization.

Learner response to the initial set of study groups has been enthusiastic. A Turkish visitor wrote, “I have been always a self-learner and everyone knows MIT OCW is the best place for courses. I think OpenStudy completes the whole learning process by adding a missing level. What’s more, I like answering questions I can already solve because it makes me remember points I had forgotten.”

In just the first month of the pilot, the OpenStudy group for 6.00 Introduction to Computer Science has attracted more than 1,600 members, the 18.01 Single Variable Calculus group has nearly 1,400 members, and the group for 21F.101 Chinese I includes more than 430 participants.

Phil Hill, CEO of OpenStudy expressed his excitement at the learner response. “Our goal is to bring a more social learning experience to students on MIT OpenCourseWare by ensuring they don’t have to study alone. Seeing so many of them now working together from all corners of the globe is a great first step.”

This week, the program was expanded to include six more of OCW’s most visited courses:

Based on the response to the expanded slate of courses in the pilot, MIT and OpenStudy expect to continue expanding the program to support additional courses.

“We feel this represents an important new phase of our program’s development,” says Stephen Carson, MIT OpenCourseWare’s External Relations Director. “These well-structured opportunities for learners to interact around our content magnify the value of our publication, especially for visitors with the most limited educational opportunities.”

About OpenCourseWare

An OpenCourseWare is a free and open digital publication of high quality university-level educational materials – often including syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, and exams – organized as courses. While OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiatives typically do not provide a degree, credit, or certification, or access to instructors, the materials are made available under open licenses for use and adaptation by educators and learners around the world.

About OpenStudy

OpenStudy is a social study network where students can ask questions, give help, collaborate and meet others. Founded by professors and students from Georgia Tech and Emory University, and funded by the National Science Foundation and the Georgia Research Alliance, OpenStudy believes that students can teach other students through collaborative learning. Unlike other closed learning networks, OpenStudy believes in making the world one large study group where students can work together in a single place regardless of their school, country or background.

About MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in the teaching of substantially all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate courses—more than 2,000 in allavailable on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. OCW receives an average of 1.5 million web site visits per month from more than 215 countries and territories worldwide. To date, more than 65 million visitors have accessed the free MIT educational materials on the site or in translation.

OpenStudy: press at openstudy dot com
MIT OpenCourseWare: scarson at mit dot edu

Mythbusters Special: MIT OpenCourseWare Paywall

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on September 16, 2010

The University World News is erroneously reporting that MIT is considering putting OCW behind a paywall. Don’t believe it. This is apparently a misinterpretation of ideas presented in last year’s Institute-Wide Planning Task Force Report.

The Chronicle and David Wiley are taking the opportunity to recycle information that’s been out there a while from Institute planning activities, which is fine (MIT would be silly to not be evaluating its position in the online environment regularly), but the impression generated is that there has been some substantial change in OCW’s financial situation, which isn’t the case. We’re still working on a set of less sensational sustainability efforts.

It’s complicated

You may have seen Jeff Young’s recent passing report on the Chinese National Top Level Course project, and its prospects in the future, titled China’s Answer to MIT’s OpenCourseWare May Get Reboot.

It would hardly be fair to expect Jeff could develop a deep understanding of the Chinese project and how it relates to the OpenCourseWare movement, as anyone whose done business in China could tell you. Without spending significant time in the country, learning the language, and talking to a great many people to triangulate on facts, it can be very difficult to assemble a comprehensive picture of anything.

For a more in-depth analysis of the Chinese project, I highly recommend Stian Haklev’s recently-released and excellent thesis, The Chinese National Top Level Course Project: Using Open Educational Resources to Promote Quality in Undergraduate Teaching. Stian, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of times, has put in the time and done his homework, and it shows in this really wonderful analysis.

Update on OpenStudy

The OpenStudy study groups continue to grow at a blistering pace:

MIT 6.00 Intro Computer Science – 1254 subscribers
MIT 18.01 Single Variable Calculus – 1084 subscribers
MIT 21F.101 Chinese I – 303 subscribers

Harvard does OpenCourseWare

Posted in open education, Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare, Video by scarsonmsm on September 1, 2010

So I’ve been watching these courses coming up on the web recently, but had not until now seen the front page that organizes them as the Harvard Open Learning Initiative from the Harvard Extension School. A really nice collection of video courses–congratulations to the Extension School for getting them up!

Keep on rockin’ in the (open) world

August is usually kind of a sleepy month for MIT OpenCourseWare traffic-wise, with folks in many parts of the world enjoying vacations and schools being out of session. This makes it all the more surprising that MIT OpenCourseWare set a monthly traffic record last month, with more than 1.6 million visits. We also topped 1 million monthly unique visitors for the first time. The final numbers:

Visits: 1,602,561
Unique Visitors: 1,015,112
Ave. Visitors per Day: 51,695

Articles from Lifehacker, Hacker News and TIME helped, as did significant traffic from and Good momentum to carry into fall.