NET NEWS: MIT to Give Away Class Materials

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Science  13 Apr 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5515, pp. 175
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5515.175b

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced last week that it plans to post materials for nearly all its courses on a free Web site. The move marks a departure from the frenzy among universities to make money from distance education.

The plan grew out of the faculty's “concern over the growing privatization of knowledge,” says Patti Richards, spokesperson for the MIT OpenCourseWare project. Materials from most of the 2000 MIT courses—from assignments to tests and video lectures—will be posted over the next 10 years, starting with about 500 courses in fall 2003. Professors at other schools will be free to download and use the content, as long as they don't attempt to sell it. But MIT won't award any class credits or degrees. Instead, says Richards, the idea is simply to give students and teachers worldwide, especially those in developing countries, access to its educational resources. The university is seeking donors to help fund the plan, which could cost $100 million.

MIT electrical engineering professor Paul Penfield Jr. says most faculty members supported the project at MIT, home of the open source software movement. Stephen Ehrmann of the Teaching, Learning, and Technology Group, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that helps colleges use technologies, applauds MIT's move: “I hope other universities will find a cheaper way to do this,” he says.

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