By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director, and Curt Newton, OCW Site Curator
Frequent users of OCW have some notion of how huge the website has become. It now has 2,370 course sites, plus another 56 Supplemental Resources. With course lists for each of MIT’s 35 departments, a companion site for high school teachers and students (Highlights for High School), and numerous collections (such as audio-video lectures, online textbooks, and most visited courses), OCW presents its vast library of openly published resources in manifold ways to help you make the most of your learning.
Alongside OCW’s growing collection, we are continually enhancing the site’s usefulness with new ways to find and explore content. Listed below are just some of the ways the website has improved in recent months.
Interactive, Searchable Video Transcripts
We’re making our videos more useful for serious study and social sharing.
Interactive, searchable video transcripts are now active in all three of our video player styles: the “tabbed” video player (as in 8.04, shown above), the “pop-up” player (as in 6.00SC), and the in-page embedded player (as in the course introduction video for 18.06SC). This new feature allows you to search for any word in the transcript. Clicking on that word will take you to its place in the video. The interactive transcript tool also makes it easy to save and share short video excerpts.
[Why the different video players? The pop-up player is useful when a page has multiple videos, or the videos are listed within a table, along with many other related resources for that session or topic. The tabbed player includes direct access to all the videos in a playlist, offers the transcript as a PDF, and includes a download function. The embedded video is typically used for short, close-up videos that are the main feature of that page.]
Interactive Timelines for Course Navigation
This interactive timeline illustrates key dates and deliverables for projects in CMS.611J Creating Video Games. It shows the amount of time instructors allocated for each project and how the projects progressively increased in complexity.
Some courses have a LOT going on. Interactive timelines are one way we help you navigate through such courses.
We incorporated a timeline into CMS.611J Creating Video Games to show how the iterative design process is taught over an entire semester. In another case, we used a timeline to collate videos of the day-by-day video reflections of the lead instructor in 20.219 Becoming the Next Bill Nye: Writing and Hosting the Educational Show.
Other Versions and Related Content
With so many courses on OCW, one of our top priorities is helping you understand how any given course fits within the overall OCW site and the MIT curriculum.
For instance, about 900 subjects on OCW have had multiple versions published. We now provide direct links to alternate versions of a course on the course home page. And if a course has a counterpart MOOC offered by MITx, we link to that too. These MITx links are complemented by a page (MITx Courses and Related OCW Courseware) that lists all the MITx MOOCs currently being offered along with related OCW courses that help you prepare or support your MOOC efforts.
For even more context, when a course is part of a sequence in the department’s curriculum, we call attention to that. Finally, Course Collections links take you to lists of other OCW courses that share similar topics.
The goal here is to provide more context for how the course fits in the MIT curriculum and maximize your learning opportunities.
[Why multiple OCW versions of the same subject? Usually the other versions have a different pedagogic approach, a different array of resources, or a resource that is especially useful (such as detailed lecture notes or problem sets with solutions), or sometimes a legendary MIT instructor!]
OCW is committed to supporting our visually and hearing impaired users. We have made extensive changes to our webpage templates to make the pages more accessible to screen readers and other disability-assist devices. Every new feature that we build into the OCW website goes through a thorough review by our accessibility experts and is not published until it meets their satisfaction. As well, we continue to make new and existing content more accessible on an ongoing basis.
The OCW website now incorporates SSL, which employs cryptography to make the site more secure. This will ensure that the OCW content can be trusted and will help in its discoverability. The only way you might have noticed is that OCW now loads into your browser as “https” and not “http.”
More “Find Courses” Options
In the Find Courses “megamenu” at the top of every OCW page, you’ll see two new categories. These are the two search capabilities that we added to our Educator Portal earlier in the year: search by Instructional Approach and search by type of Teaching Materials. Why should we change the megamenu? We figured you would benefit from having all the search functions in one place, and we were wondering if more people would visit the Educator Portal as a result. Turns out, our hunch was correct. Traffic to the Portal doubled almost overnight, and now gets about 30,000 visits every month.
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These are just a few of the ways we’ve upgraded the OCW site in recent months to enhance your experience. Stay tuned for more improvements in the coming months.