OpenFiction [Blog]

From MIT President Susan Hockfield’s Welcome to OCWC 2011

We were very pleased to have MIT President Susan Hockfield provide the official welcome from the hosting institutions at the 2011 Global OpenCourseWare Consortium Conference on May 4. Though we’ll eventually have video of the event, including her welcome, I thought I’d share an excerpt from her remarks here as well.

Over the last 10 years, MIT OpenCourseWare has had a tremendous impact on MIT itself, transforming the way we connect with students and alumni, the way we think about teaching and learning, and the way we understand our role in the world. I expect this is true for all of you, too: as the movement has taken off, we have come to see how OCW and open sharing have magnified many times over our power to contribute to global education. The worldwide embrace of MIT OpenCourseWare continues to be incredibly gratifying. Students and faculty from more than 3,000 universities around the world have visited the MIT site alone, as have many millions of independent learners from around the globe. We receive moving e-mails from users describing how MIT OpenCourseWare has unlocked the doors to new worlds for them.

And the doors keep opening, everywhere, as more and more universities join the movement, bringing their own unique approaches to education. Part of the Consortium’s story can be told in numbers: The Consortium now includes more than 250 universities and organizations, representing 45 countries and regions around the world. Collectively, Consortium members have published more than 15,000 courses. These courses are published or translated in 12 languages, including Catalan, Chinese, English, Hebrew, Japanese, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese. National governments of at least five countries now have policies on the development and use of open educational resources. And now some numbers that speak to the superb quality of the movement: in the latest US News ranking of the top 25 global universities, nine have an OpenCourseWare or open educational resources program; 15 of the top 50 do.

Another potent aspect of the OCW Consortium story is the global leadership and cooperation its members demonstrate every day. The Consortium counts among its members such well-known institutions as Oxford, UC Berkeley, the University of Tokyo and Seoul National University, working hand in hand with schools as diverse as the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, the Virtual University of Pakistan, and Utah Valley University. The Consortium’s board of directors draws its members from Japan, South Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and the United States. Perhaps most important, the Consortium’s success springs from the many thousands of educators around the world—from across cultures and continents—who have embraced the importance of knowledge as a public good and have chosen to freely share their intellectual resources.

No idea, no matter how revolutionary, emerges without precedent. By the year 2000, many forces stirring in the young Internet inclined toward increasing openness, from open source software to open licensing, and MIT OpenCourseWare certainly drew strength and inspiration from them. However, I believe OpenCourseWare is properly the child of a much more ancient tradition, as well: For as long as the Western world has had universities, a defining feature of the academy has been the simultaneous pursuit of the same ideas, around the globe, and the drive to come together around those ideas. In a world too often fractured by conflict, this tradition of the “global intellectual commons” represents an important convening force for humankind, and a potent force for unified global action and the advancement of the common good. If we nurture the global intellectual commons, by reaching out to work with collaborators around the world to share our knowledge freely, and if we prepare our students to appreciate the value of this remarkable tradition, so beautifully embodied by the OCW Consortium, we will go a long way towards inventing a better future for all.

Once I get all my neglected items back under control, I’ll probably have some additional reflections on what was a remarkably successful event (if I do say so myself). Much of that success is due to the efforts of Brandon Muramatsu and the rest of the conference committee, who devoted a ton of time to the planning and execution. Thanks to all.

Those of you who know me

Posted in Personal by scarsonmsm on May 17, 2011

know my son Daniel is a cancer survivor, and we do what we can to support the clinic that treated him. This year, Daniel and his sister are taking part in a kids bike ride to support the Dana Farber center and the Jimmy Fund Clinic. Here are their handcrafted fundraising messages:


Hi, it’s me, Olivia.

I am doing the PMC Kids Bike Ride that benefits the Jimmy Fund and Dana Farber. I’m doing this because raising money for cancer is special to me because my brother had cancer. Daniel had very good care at the Jimmy Fund and luckily, there was a cure for his type of cancer. For some children (and adults) there are no cures for their types of cancer and giving money to cancer research lets the doctors buy what they need to look for cures and equipment to take care of people who have cancer. I’m trying to raise $100 for cancer research and I need a little help from you. Please support my PMC Bike Ride to help children with cancer leave the Jimmy Fund and play with their siblings again. Thank you! I love you all.


Hi! It’s me, Daniel.

I’m riding in the PMC Kids Ride to raise money for the Jimmy Fund.

I’m doing this because it’s nice and I survived cancer!

I survived cancer because there was a cure.

People raised enough money to the doctors for them to find a cure for my Wilms Tumor type of cancer.

Please make a donation to my PMC Kids Ride!

I want you to do this for the children who have cancer and aren’t cured yet.

Kids not as lucky as me.

Please visit my profile at to sponsor me.

Thank you!!

I love you.



Two theories on how OER work

Posted in Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare, reuse, sustainability by scarsonmsm on May 13, 2011

From an e-mail I wrote this morning:

I think right now there is evidence for two divergent theories on the way OER work: the standard view that reuse of OER results in cost savings and iterative quality improvement, and the view that in many cases OER are disposable rather than reusable. And the case may be that both views are correct, depending on circumstance.

I think the first view is pretty clear and so I’ll skip to an explanation of the second. As production and distribution of a wider and wider range of media become cheaper and more widely available on a standard PC, it’s often easier to draw inspiration from the teaching materials of others but create the actual materials you use from scratch. I interviewed a professor here in the States whose work illustrated just this ( Video production, too, illustrates this concept. With a laptop camera, it’s far easier to create a new video from scratch than to edit or even translate and subtitle one that’s been previously produced.

Obviously there are caveats about unequal access to technology and appropriate accessibility provisions, but in general, by privileging adaption over direct creation, we may be encouraging faculty and schools to undertake processes that inadvertently end up costing more and producing lower quality materials. What is clear to me at this point is that by sharing materials openly, we are allowing educators to learn from one another through the transparency OER provide, regardless of whether the OER are actually reused. And many materials are so cheap to produce that it’s fine if they end up as openly shared educational “compost” that is the fertile ground for the growth of new materials rather than the “pulp” that gets recycled directly.

Ever wonder what it’s like to direct MIT OpenCourseWare’s publication?

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare, publication by scarsonmsm on May 12, 2011

Now’s your chance to find out. Dan Carchidi, our publication director for the last several years, has announced his departure for a position at UNH. For me this is a personal as well as professional loss, as I count Dan as a friend as well as trusted colleague, but this is an opportunity for someone else to take on a job that is challenging and rewarding in equal measure. This is a job for someone with both a thorough understanding of the open ed world and outstanding project and program management skills. Here’s the posting at MIT.