Free MIT Education Days May Be Ending

In the past, it has been MIT’s mission to advance education by providing free access to college-level course materials. The institute encourages self learners around the globe to pursue their personal and professional academic interests through OpenCourseWare without being limited by financial barriers. But according to a New York Times brief, the director of M.I.T.’s Teaching and Learning Laboratory Lori Breslow expressed concerns about MIT’s ability to continue to provide OpenCourseWare at no cost at the recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Institutional Management in Higher Education conference in Paris. Breslow mentioned that free access may not be the best model for MIT economically and that they were looking at new ways to provide e-learning opportunities.

According to the MIT Web site, it costs anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 to put together faculty’s course materials, format materials for digital platforms, and obtain open sharing licenses. It cost twice that amount to put out courses that contained video content. Half of this cost is provided by MIT, although the institute is unable to fund the full amount it takes to update and add to course content. The nonexistent price consumers have to pay to access OpenCourseware is only possible because of MIT faculty who donate their course materials and the financial support of individual donors.

MIT OpenCourseWare is a virtual publication of all MIT course materials which is shared over the Internet. Open licensing allows for CourseWare to be used by the public without providing access to instructors or a means for any type of formal certification, degree, or credit to be earned. OpenCourseWare is offered by MIT in the form of individual courses and can include course planning materials, thematic content, and evaluation tools. The institute makes it possible for anyone with a computer to access courses in the academic disciplines of architecture, management, science, engineering, and humanities, arts, and social sciences. These courses typically contain the same type of curriculum that is developed and taught by MIT faculty in actual courses. Anyone who is curious and dedicated enough to teach themselves can work through educational materials according to their own schedules and preferences.

Starting with the publication of 50 courses on its first OpenCourseWare site in 2002, MIT currently offers access to 2000 published courses. According to its Web site, MIT OpenCourseWare has been accessed by 73 million visitors from around the world, of which 43 percent are self learners, 42 percent are students, and 9 percent are educators. These visitors access the material for many purposes, the most popular being to enhance personal knowledge, complement a current course, and learn about areas outside of one’s profession. However, avid fans of OpenCourseWare may have to start breaking out their credit cards if they want to keep learning as the free days of MIT’s program come to an end.

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