[photopress:mba_online_courses.jpg,full,alignright]In the past few years, educational material, from handwritten lecture notes to whole courses, has been made available online, free for anyone who wants it.
The movement started in the late 1990s, inspired in part by the ‘open source’ software movement, based on the notion computer programs should be free.
In 2001 MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) became the first university to offer course material free online.
Its OpenCourseWare project now offers lecture notes, exams and other resources from more than 1,800 courses spanning the institutes’ entire curriculum.
According to its Web site the material has been accessed by 40 million visitors from nearly every country, with visitors averaging a million a month. Nearly half — 49% – are self-learners; a little more than a third are students; and 16% are educators. Not all the material is academic. The illustration is from a course looking at television wrestling as a phenomenon.
More than 150 universities are linked in a network in China.
In April, Dalian will host the twice-yearly session of the OpenCourseWare consortium, which gathers more than 100 higher-education institutions from Australia to Venezuela.
Despite the massive potential some problems remain. Richard Wyles, whose Flexible Learning Network is working on a national e-learning network in New Zealand, said, ‘With open-source software, quality increases as lines of code get fine-tuned and replaced,’ he says. ‘With content, that happens far less often. Instead, it increases without any real quality control.’
That is, after lecturers and teachers have submitted their notes and other course material so that others can access it, there is no built-in way to ensure this material isn’t inaccurate or outdated.
This is the same problem faced by Wikipedia and the answer is almost the same. Users have to adjust to the new reality. What you have is bulk which may not be refined on a continual basis. Part of the refinement process is up to the user. Amazing stuff. An university education (in English, Chinese and many other languages) available to anyone who has an Internet connection.
Source: Wall Street Journal