Every spring and fall as we prepare for our fundraising drives, we ask our Executive Director, Cecilia d’Oliveira, to share her views on where the world of open education is headed, why OCW has an important role to play, and what we can accomplish with the support of our visitors. Here is the text of this spring’s director letter, which was distributed via the MIT OpenCourseWare Newsletter.
Dear Friend of OCW,
This is an amazing moment for education—technologies are transforming the way we can provide education at an unprecedented pace. Tens of thousands of learners now routinely sign up for free online courses through providers like MITx and millions more access free educational materials through OpenCourseWare sites from MIT and others.
Perhaps for the first time in history, it is possible to plausibly imagine a future where everyone who has the desire to learn will also have the opportunity, regardless of their personal circumstance. We can now envision a world where high quality educational opportunities are widely available to both the wealthy and poor, in developing countries as in developed countries.
We are already seeing glimpses of this future:
Mohamed Harding, a 17-year-old high school student from Freetown, Sierra Leone is passionate about engineering, mathematics, physics and chemistry. A few years ago his uncle told him about OCW and since then he’s delved into several OCW courses. Harding was inspired by the 6.270 Autonomous Robot Design Competition course and created a “grab and spy” robot out of broken toy parts and a soldering gun. Harding says,
“[OCW] helps me in school because things that are not taught in my school can be researched there. When I started using OCW, I said ‘Wow!’ because I realized that all these things that they teach us in school can actually be done.
OCW has helped me a lot educationally. It has kept me busy with making, and averted me from watching all the things on the Internet that other people waste time on. Making is a good thing. It exposes you to the world and broadens your mind.”
OCW is a critical resource for providing global educational opportunity. At MIT, OCW provides content and infrastructure to support MITx courses. Around the world, OCW helps educators improve online and offline educational offerings, and millions of learners worldwide depend on OCW for timely access to a broad range of educational materials.
Access of our resources has never been higher
Last year, the OCW site received record traffic, 22 million visits to 2,150 courses, including 3.4 million visits to the OCW Scholar courses and 640,000 visits to our Highlights for High School site. Our videos on YouTube have been viewed more than 12.6 million times and downloaded from the iTunesU site more and 9.9 million times. Our courses have been downloaded locally more than 2.2 million times.
We’re making OCW even more useful
A challenge in sharing materials from 2,150 courses openly is helping our visitors find the course that meets their needs and we hope that with the new site redesign, you’ve noticed an improvement. Our new course finder helps visitors zero in on the topic that interests them most. We’ve also made it simpler for those familiar with the MIT course numbering system to find a course by number and also by department.
We’ve added more resources to the Highlights for High School site. There are now more than 3,000 resources mapped to the US Advanced Placement curriculum. In addition to the ChemLab Boot Camp series, we’ve published Chemistry Behind the Magic, a set of 12 videos of live MIT chemistry demonstrations.
Last year, with guidance from our Faculty Advisory Committee, we began to work on a new initiative to enhance the value of OCW for educators around the world and at MIT. The resource will present information about how MIT educators design, teach, and run their courses. We will be sure to keep you posted on this important project.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll continue to enjoy OCW resources, share them with your friends, family, and colleagues and support our efforts in our upcoming spring campaign.
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