MIT to put course materials online for free

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Wednesday unveiled an ambitious plan for making nearly all of its course materials available online to the general public over the next 10 years.

The project – MITOpenCourseWare – will create static Web pages containing the entirety of a typical MIT course. That includes lecture notes, course outlines, syllabi, reading lists, and assignments. The project is expected to eventually provide material for up to 2,000 courses in every discipline studied at MIT, which is in Cambridge. The information will be provided free, moving away from what Steven Lerman, chairman of the MIT faculty, called the growing “privatization of knowledge,” in the statement.

MIT will now enter a two-year pilot program, during which the institute will determine how best to make the project available globally. The impetus for the project came from meetings of the Council on Educational Technology, a group of educational leaders within MIT. They asked a mixture of MIT faculty and staff plus consultants from Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. to create a system for making learning materials available to far-flung members of the MIT community, namely alumni.

During these meetings in the summer of 2000, it was suggested that the information be made available to the general public, an idea that was widely accepted, according to Reggie Van Lee, vice-president and managing partner of Booz-Allen & Hamilton and a MIT alumnus.

The enthusiasm was campus-wide, Van Lee said. Students and faculty participated in focus groups and surveys to gauge interest. Van Lee anticipated running into problems with professors over copyright infringments, but that never materialized.

A number of MIT professors already share their course materials with the educational and scientific communities. Also, “everyone accepted the value of an MIT education as the interaction between professor and student,” he said. The project contains plans to enable real-time interactions through the site, but the details of that still need to be worked out, he said.

Booz-Allen & Hamilton will assist in the planning and building of the infrastructure for the project as it progresses.

MIT, in Cambridge, Mass., can be reached at