OpenFiction [Blog]

MIT OpenCourseWare Announces New Course Materials to Support Independent Learners

With support from the Stanton Foundation, OCW publishes free foundational course materials structured for independent study.

Cambridge MA, January 12, 2011 — Today, MIT OpenCourseWare launched beta versions of five courses that represent a significant new approach to openly sharing educational resources. Dubbed “OCW Scholar” courses, these materials are designed from the start for independent learners who have few additional resources available to them. The courses are substantially more complete than typical OCW courses and include new custom-created content as well as materials repurposed from MIT classrooms. The materials are also arranged in logical sequences and include multimedia such as video and simulations.

With the support of the Stanton Foundation, OCW will publish a total of twenty such courses in the next three years, focused on introductory college-level science, mathematics, technology and other foundational subjects. The first five courses in the OCW Scholar series are 8.01SC Physics I: Classical Mechanics, 8.02SC Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism, 18.01SC Single Variable Calculus, 18.02SC Multivariable Calculus, and 3.091SC Introduction to Solid State Chemistry. These courses are OCW’s first attempt at this new format, and the OCW team will be actively seeking user feedback.

“When we first launched OCW, the number of independent learners using the site was a big surprise to us. They were forty to fifty percent of our visitors,” says Professor Shigeru Miyagawa, OWC’s Faculty Advisory Committee Chair. “The site was originally envisioned as a set of resources for other educators to use in their classrooms. We didn’t consider OCW a distance learning program—and we still don’t—but we do feel we identified an unmet demand for independent learning opportunities, and that’s what OCW Scholar seeks to address.”

OCW Scholar courses still follow the OpenCourseWare model. They are content-based resources provided at no cost that do not offer certification or interaction with MIT faculty or students. The content is drawn from materials used in MIT classes, although unlike the regular OCW publication, OCW Scholar courses may combine resources from across a number of MIT courses and incorporate additional resources created specifically for OCW Scholar publication. The OCW Scholar courses complement the regular OCW publication but do not replace it.

“We’re still committed to publishing MIT’s materials as we always have,” say OCW Executive Director Cecilia d’Oliveira, “and our core publication continues to provide tremendous value to educators and students around the world. With OCW Scholar, we are enhancing our support for independent learners and building on what we’ve accomplished with the rest of the site.”

The OCW Scholar courses are also being supported by OCW’s pilot program with OpenStudy, which began last year. OpenStudy groups allow users of the OCW Scholar sites to collaborate with one another, so while there is no opportunity to contact MIT faculty or students, OCW Scholar visitors still have a resource to turn to for answers to questions and opportunities for discussion with fellow learners.

“We’re hoping to create a truly scalable resource,” says MIT OpenCourseWare Publication Director Daniel Carchidi, who oversaw the team creating the OCW Scholar courses. “These courses aren’t intended to be the equivalent of classroom-based learning, or even distance learning, but they are scalable in a way that those learning opportunities are not. An almost limitless number of people can access and learn from OCW Scholar courses.”

About Frank Stanton

The Stanton Foundation was created by Frank Stanton, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest executives in the history of electronic communications. Hired by CBS in 1935 on the strength of his PhD dissertation in the nascent field of audience research, he became president of CBS at age 36. During his 25 years as president he turned an also-ran radio network into a broadcasting powerhouse.

Stanton’s contributions to the industry and the society it served were numerous. In 1960, for example, Stanton initiated the first televised presidential debates—the famous Nixon-Kennedy “Great Debates”—which required a special Act of Congress before they could proceed. These debates are widely credited with giving Kennedy his margin of victory, and have become a staple of American presidential campaigns.

As president of CBS, he created CBS Labs, where, under the leadership of Peter Goldmark, the LP record and the first commercial color broadcasting system were invented. He spearheaded the creation of the first coast to coast broadcasting system, allowing CBS to become the first network to present a live coast-to-coast news event, a speech by President Truman at the opening of the Japanese Peace Conference in San Francisco. Frank Stanton was the commencement speaker at MIT in 1961.

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 initiatives typically do not provide a degree, credit, or certification, or access to instructors, OCW materials are made available under open licenses for use and adaptation by educators and learners around the world.

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 total—available 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 70 million visitors have accessed the free MIT educational materials on the site or in translation.

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