Wednesday, February 15, 2012


This is an area of research interest for me.  The motivations for producing the OpenCourseWare that were highlighted in the MIT announcement conference were those of freely sharing tools that would increase knowledge and learning opportunities throughout the world, particularly in developing countries.  The president of MIT stated that this was not about finances but was a reflection of the idealistic view of the faculty that they wanted to be a positive influence and change the world.  One of the professors on the panel mentioned that most faculty do not get into academia to sell courses for a profit, but rather to increase and disseminate knowledge.

Another panel member stated that these courses were intended to be publication not instruction.  The president said that the courses were not intended to be an MIT education.  He said that the MIT education requires interactions between the students, faculty, and the environment in the school.  The anticipation in the MIT initiative was that the University would not benefit financially, but that it would benefit reputationally and fulfill the altruistic motives that most of the faculty had when they decided to pursue a career in academia.  The questions from those attending the press conference were interesting.  Most of the questions made reference to money or ownership (intellectual property).  I don't know that these expressed concerns have changed in the last ten years in the minds of many people.

The questions that I have heard asked in the different settings where I have talked with others about OpenCourseWare always seem to come back to ownership and funding.  The analogy that the president of MIT used to the approach Carnegie used in order to increase opportunities for learning hits the target in the center.  He did not decide to create a correspondence school.  He decided to fund a network of libraries.  MIT was not motivated by funds from additional students.  They are interested in helping spread access to learning.  The hope that other schools would follow included a statement from the head of the faculty committee that they had to invest in the OpenCourse project to understand its cost.  The cost would be the factor that most schools would have to consider when they decide whether to follow the initiative.  This is why research in this area is attractive to me.

BYU is a private institution sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  As a world-wide church, there are millions of members in developing countries who need opportunities for education in order to raise their standard of living and advance the strength and stability of their families.  BYU is a possible help to the other more direct efforts that the Church is making in this area.  If research can show that this effort can be sustained and supported with minimal cost, then the Church may be able to leverage materials created at the Church institutions of higher education to bless the lives of members around the world.  I am a believer that funding will be made available if there are key institutional strategies that OpenCourseWare can achieve.

A decade has now passed since the MIT announcement and first courses coming online.  One of my badge projects is to document what has transpired in the decade since.

1 comment:

  1. I fully agree that these concerns haven't changed in the last ten years in the minds of many people. That's why one of the assignments in this class is the Evangelist Badge. We only change minds one at a time.

    I agree that there is an incredible amount of good BYU good do for members of the LDS church and others if research can show that this effort can be sustained and supported with minimal cost.