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.


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