Open Courseware and the Emerging Global Meta University
Charles M. Vest
Persident Emeritus, MIT
Seminars on Academic Computing
Claire Maple Address

(Notes via collaborative SubEthaEdit session with Cyprien Lomas- I had never done this- it is very effective but tiring!)

Vijay Kumar introduces speaker…
Charles Vest – 15th president at MIT
Bio :

* undergrad education
* international research programs
* promote cultural diversity
* developing relations with industry
* book: Pursuing the Endless Frontier
* pursuing open access
* keep knowledge open, unfettered & accessible

Role of Retired University Presidents

Time of Londond Higher Ed Supplement: Why do US universities dominate top rankings?

1 Harvard
2 Berkeley
4 CalTech


Attribues of US Higher Ed
1. diversity of institutions (small, large, public, private, research, teaching)
2. freedom for new faculty (pursue whatever they want in scholarship & teaching)
3. interwoven teaching & research
4. open to students, faculty & scholars from other countries
5. implicit national science and tech policy
6. philanthropy and tax laws
7. competition for Faculty & students keeps us sharp

Key Phrases: Divesity, interwoven, open (key attributes)

1) how will ed tech playout?
2) what is nature of gloablization
3) will the internet fundamentally reshape higher ed (it already has)
4) are residential universities dinosaurs or cont wave of future?

My Ed Tech Nightmare
Students all over the world sitting in front of a box viewing the same lecture

Alternative: MIT OpenCourseWare
* make basic teaching materials available for 2000 MIT subjects available on the web to teachers and learners free of charge
* Publication — Not teaching per se (not so much Distance learning)
* an adventure!

How it came about- Provost posed questions- Is there a Big Thing?, a new role for MIT as leader. Conclusion- Dist Learnig would be difficult and non-proftable. (overlap is OK – can edit later)

competitive, unlikely to make money from it.

…. so someone said ‘If we cant make money, lets give it away!”

how it has been funded
Mellon. Hewitt $$

How I construe OCW potential:
-what happened in the 60s: engineering education changed; new textbooks, porting materials across the country. Materials shared across institutions. Removing randomness of materials based on the quirks of the professor.
– what has changed
– a beautiful use of the net and the web

Why OCW does not constitute an MIT education:
“A university education is not a box of books” — Larry Bacow (energized MIT faculty- a statement of value of teaching, research, university experience)

Reiterate that OCW is an adventure -risk

Where is it going? some examples:

Students at peer institutions augmenting learning
unemployed Silcion Valley programmers mastering advanced languages
University of Ghana benchmarking and revising courses
an underground univ educating religious minority in middle east (1000 students who are not allowed to attend higher ed institutions)
a prof in Baghdad basing research on data from an MIT subject

used in entirety, in part, at any pace, added to, deleted from, modified.
‘a Starter set’

Not about dictating how learning occurs

What is the business plan? Not sure…

70% of MIT students make heavy use of OCW
– to review subjects taken in past
– to reinforce subjects currently taking
– to explore other areas of study

Map of traffic my geographic region
North america 182.6M web hits
MEurope 66.9M
19.0 Russia
Africa 3.3
22.9 South America
69 (?) asia

Outside US one month (Feb 2005)-
1. India
2. China
3. Canada
12. Iran?
14. Turkey?
20. Netherlands

high satisfaction rates: Visitor Impact Statements
helped me learn
would recommend to friends

educators 15.3
students 31.4

self learners 48.2 (!)

66% hold Bs or MS

1.6 visits per month, 10 HTML pages per visit

Spawning other initiatives : Emerging ‘opencoursewares’ both in US and abroad
Utah State University
John Hopkins School of Public Health
Rai University, India in Span, Portugal, Latin America
translate content into Spanish

China Open Resources for Education (CORE)
100 university members
10-20 million users

What does the future hold?
1) replicated -yes
3) replaced by other developments – probably
2) grow linux like into a single entity? maybe.. (hopefully?)

30 ongoing OCW projects
30 More in planning statges in South Africa, Russia

More context:

other open resources:
google library
other open content initiatives
open academic software Sakai

Google Library INitiative
et al

Goal: scan archives & make available

Jstor: scholarly journals
fee based, serves 2300 instutions, 400 + journals
ArtStor: high qual images of art works 5000 images by next year

Ithaka: 3 prongs incubate / shared services/ experiential networking (learn from one another)

Aluka- scholarly resources developing countries (Africa) (
E-Archive- preserve published journals
NITLE facutly development in small colleges/ community colleges

open acad softwaare:
sakai, oki, OLI, connexions, Lionshare, Alexandra, UC berk (digital chem) VUE,

open content:
alexandria archive
league for innovation in coomm college

million book project (CMU/OCLC)

OCW: goals are diff from archiving but clearly related
ramifications of portable memory…(!)
few data points…

Portable Memory–
iPod memory/$ is doubling every year, Moore’s law like
– 2004 20 Gb for $400
– 2025 40 Petabytes for $400 ???

iLabs An Evolving Resource
Online Lab : eal experimental equip accessed over the net (this is almost all lab equipment, and a good fresh idea for education). Run expts from a laptop (rather than simulations)
Leader: prof:. jesus del alamo, MIT
open iLab architecture
some coupling to OCW

WebLabs experiments
e.g.characteristics of electronic components, heat exchangers
U Parma (Italy), Makereer (Uganda), +….

Formal use: very large number of non MIT academic use (others are: MIT uGrad, MIT grad, non MIT (industrial), non MIT (academic)

Why Openness is especially impoartant today?

effect of 9/11 snapshot of US visas going to foreigners (high skill visitors)

(computer crashes at this momen BSOD: “Is my time up?”) Quips: I once heard about somebody who had a heart attack while speaking to 700 doctors). Waiting for windows to start up… Tech staff needs the password! Here comes the Mac.


Openness in Higher Ed
– true spirit of educatrion
-sharing expensive materials
– public diplomacy

Why US needs Public Diplomacy today:
Pew Research asked:

“Suppose a young person wanted to leave this country to leave a good life– wher would you go?”

Openness we take for granted in American Universities:
flow of knowledge and flow of scholars

Open flow of Scholars
– openness to talented people

-impacts success, prosperitiy and even national security

Open Flow of Scientific Info

– science thrives thru unfettered communication

– science has criticism, testing, questioning

Now is the time: (not a new idea)
Internet & Web introduce unprecedented : scope, reach, speed

Where The Students Are? First University S&E Degrees (graph from NSF)
(asia dominates, then Europe, then North America)

country by country:
China remarkable growth “never anything like this” for bachelor degrees

Similar trends in PhD degrees

Book Titles with Messages
World is Flat ->: Globalization, does not matter where you are
Open Innovation -> new style of global partnering, go to best sources and integrate them

Globalizing Higher Ed
Branch cammpuses
Elecotrnic Communities

All above but
– think about scale, diversity of context, distribution of resources.

the Meta University
Transcendant, accessible, empowering, dynamic, communally constructed framework of open materials

– will enable, not replace residential campuses
– cost savings
-adpatable, not prescriptive
speed propagation of high qual ed & scholarship

build bridges across cultures
imporant to developing world
serve teachers and learners

anne Marguilies, bob Brown,

Bill Bowen, Ira Fuchs Kevin Guthr, (Mellon)
Paul Brest Mike Smith (Hewlett)

other refs: (hewlett initiatives)

(1) How did he get faculty buy-in and get passed copyright/ IP?

“Like any other university, faculty only does what faculty likes to do!” Sell and engage faculty in the idea. Came from faculty committee (bottom up). (thanks to bob brown : provost at the time)
-formed teams, visited every department at MIT to get open discussion and viewpoints.
Notable: difference in cultures in schools. Engineering got it immediately, sloan school was in, humanities most enthusiastic, science took convincing.
Counter arguments: This was surprisingly uncommon:”we dont want you to have our IP”. #1 concern was .. can we d something we will be proud of #2. Not at the expense of our current innovation in teachign programs #3 cant be an add on – needs real resources.

IP: biggest expense is third party content (publishers, textbooks) Much detailed Staff work to catch copywritten material. Much of science and engiineering are representations of physical phenomena (recreate the graph, figure, etc). Message to publishers- why not product placement like Coke in movies? Some publishers get it others not.

(2) What is the role of the library if all this info goes up on line?

wont replace the library (work with library in D-space).

The post "OpenCourseWare and the Emerging Global Meta University (SAC2005)" was originally emerged from the primordial ooze and first walked on land at CogDogBlog ( on August 8, 2005.


  • Stephen Downes

    Good summary – I guess I can toss my notes on the talk now. ;)

  • Stephen Downes

    That said… it was the oddest thing, though. When his computer died, he just stopped talking – I mean, it was like, the talk couldn’t go on without the slides. So we were all treated to 5-10 minutes of waiting for the tech support rather than sort of remarks at all.

    Well, I found it odd, at least.