Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
More than 13 million hits from approximately 120,000 unique visitors were recorded on the MIT OpenCourseWare web site in the first week after course materials appeared online last week.
The pilot site for MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) opened to the public on Sept. 30 with no formal announcement. But word spread quickly, and by Monday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m., there had been 13,381,691 web page hits on the MIT OCW site, with an average of 1.91 million hits per day and 12 average page views per visitor. Those 13.38 million hits included almost 7 million just last weekend.
As of Oct. 4, 43 percent of visitors were from the United States and 28 percent from other countries (the remainder were of unknown origin). The top five geographical regions for visitors to the MIT OCW site were California, South Korea, Massachusetts, the United Kingdom and Germany.
"We received an overwhelmingly positive response through our e-mail feedback form," said Anne H. Margulies, executive director of MIT OCW. "It's also clear that people are impressed with the depth and breadth, and the caliber, of the course materials."
Through the the morning of Oct. 8, MIT OCW staff had received 1,369 e-mails from users. Some of their comments:
"You guys are gods. I have been dreaming about taking a course at MIT but never was able to afford one until now. I live in New York and I was up [on the morning of Sept. 30] just to be the first few to try the OpenCourseWare. Thank you, thank you, thank you." - New York City.
"Today is a historic day. It's the Big Bang in the knowledge universe." - Algeria.
"I'm a current MIT undergrad, and I think this is a great idea. This gives me a chance to look at course materials for classes I don't have time (and money) to register for, and it gives people a valuable resource for self-study. And a display of the depth of study available to students if they decide to enroll at MIT... Please continue to expand the offerings." - Cambridge, Mass.
"I read about your initiative in the [New York] Times online and have to say this is one of the most exciting applications of the Internet to date. I look forward to taking advantage of this opportunity to 'take a dip' in MIT's enormous reservoir of human intellect." - Africa.
On Oct. 7, MIT OCW staff sent out an e-mail invitation to view the pilot site to more than 2,600 people who have contacted MIT OCW or the MIT News Office since the plan was first announced in April 2001.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 9, 2002.