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OCW - OpenCourseWare


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MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is delivering on MIT's promise to share knowledge openly: through it all MIT course materials will be accessible on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. Millions of educators, students and self-learners around the globe are avidly using the 1250 courses now available (the initiative will include materials from approximately 1,800 courses by the year 2007). Importantly, more than 60 other institutions around the world have adopted the "opencourseware" concept, and are now freely disseminating their knowledge and materials as part of the burgeoning OpenCourseWare Movement.


In 1999 an MIT faculty committee was charged with determining how MIT should position itself in the distance/e-learning environment. After a year of market research and analysis, the committee concluded that a revenue-generating model was not viable for MIT. Instead—convinced that open software and open systems were the wave of the future—the group came to a simple, but very elegant, conclusion: MIT should use the Internet to give our teaching materials away.

Posting course materials online is not, of course, equivalent to offering the experience of an MIT education; that can be had only by interacting directly with MIT professors and other MIT students. But making MIT course materials available online sends a strong message about the university's values: in the era of the Internet economy, MIT values openness and learning over financial gain.

When OCW was first announced, one of the unresolved issues was how MIT would pay for it. In July 2002, we received grants totaling $11 million, contributed in equal amounts by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In addition, MIT committed $1 million of our own funds to OCW, with a pledge to continue sustaining the program through our regular operations budget.


While faculty and administrators were enthusiastic about the concept, the delivery was potentially more challenging. Making course materials suitable for the Web is more difficult and time consuming than simply posting a PDF. The MIT strategy called for a central support organization that could help produce the Web sites.

  • A full-time executive director was charged with building an efficient production system, one that can construct course Web sites at costs that MIT can cover internally.
  • A team of attorneys, graphic artists, researchers and photo image specialists obtain copyright and intellectual property clearance for all the charts, quotes, images, and other items that are often embedded in lecture notes.
  • Utilizing Web content editors such as DreamWeaver, a team of programmers from MIT and the Sapient Corp., a consulting firm, designed a consistent, but not overly constraining, "look" for the MIT OCW pilot site, then built templates, which they continue to apply. In early 2003, MIT OCW implemented a content management system and migrated the entire Web site into the CMS.
  • The team created a single, searchable organizing structure spanning all the courses.

With OCW staff members helping transcribe lecture notes, dealing with intellectual-property issues, and providing assistance with graphics and Web design, the course sites are published without requiring extraordinary efforts by any individual professors.


A significant portion of our professors have told us that they use MIT OCW materials to prepare for their classes, do research, and help their students. An MIT structural engineer, for example, discovered the work of a colleague in ocean engineering and incorporated that material into a monograph on wave vibration. Over time, we expect that such collaborations will spur innovations in all kinds of interdisciplinary education and research. And by digitally archiving our faculty's course materials in DSpace (link to this case study), we will preserve a record of MIT's continuously evolving curriculum.

But the real payoff is OCW's effect on educators and learners around the world. In November 2005 the site had 30,000 unique visitors a day—nearly 1 million a month. Self-learners account for 48% of those, with educators comprising 13% and students 31%. Mirror sites have translated and distributed the information around the world, especially where Internet access is limited.

Ultimately, our goal was to create a model that other universities could follow and improve. Today, the OpenCourseWare Consortium is a collaboration of more than 60 higher education institutions and associated organizations. They are in the U.S., China, France, India, Japan, Portugal, Spain, and Vietnam. Together, they are creating a broad, deep body of open educational content.


Anne Margulies

Anne Margulies is the executive director of MIT's OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative and brings 20 years of leadership experience in strategic planning, information technology and operations to the MIT OCW project.

She came to MIT in May 2002 from FH/GPC, a government relations, public affairs, and communications consulting firm where she was the Chief Operating Officer responsible for the overall performance of the firm. Prior to her time at FH/GPC, Anne was the executive vice-president of McDermott O'Neill & Associates, where she restructured the senior management team and planned and managed the sale of the company to GPC International.

From 1986 to 1998, Anne held information technology positions at Harvard University, serving as assistant provost and executive director for Harvard's Information Systems department with responsibility for all centralized administrative IT activities. Before coming to Harvard in 1986, Anne was a Senior Account Manager in the higher education sector for AT&T.


CNN: Global Challenges

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Measuring Success

ACCESS: Traffic to the OCW site is steady, increasing and progressively global.

  • In total, 2.3 million unique visitors came to the site from November 1, 2003- October 31, 2004, generating nearly 4.2 million visits.
  • The site averaged 348,000 visits per month; monthly visits ranged from 235,000 in November 2003 to 523,000 in October 2004.
  • Returning visitors, averaging 6.8 visits per month, were 11 percent of all visitors, and generated 46 percent of all visits.
  • 36 percent of visitors come from North America; 16 percent each come from East Asia and Western Europe; 11 percent each from Latin America and Eastern Europe; and the remaining 9 percent from the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific, Central Asia and the Caribbean combined.
  • OCW distribution affiliates Universia in Spain, Opensource OpenCourseWare Protocol System (OOPS) in Taiwan, and China Open Resources for Education (CORE) in Beijing generated an estimated 1.3 million visits (31 percent of MIT OCW traffic overall) to translated MIT OCW content.
  • 32 percent of visitors report learning of the site via online media, and 23 percent learned of the site from offline media.
  • Nearly 60 percent of visits to the OCW site came as referrals from other sites, largely the main MIT homepage, search engines, OCW-affiliated sites, news sites, and technical community forums.

ACCESS: Visitor educational role distribution and profiles remain about the same.

  • At 48 percent, self learners continue to make up the bulk of visitors, followed by students (31 percent), and educators (13 percent).
  • 51 percent of visitors come from North America or Western Europe, typically hold a bachelors or master's degree (66 percent), and are most frequently interested in electrical engineering, business, management, physics and mathematics.
  • 55 percent of self learners come from North America or Western Europe, typically holding a bachelor's or master's degree (74 percent); 60 percent have 10 years or less professional experience; they are most frequently interested in engineering, business/management and sciences.
  • 49 percent of students come from North America or Western Europe, typically holding a bachelor's degree or high school diploma (62 percent); most attend four-year colleges or graduate schools (86 percent) and nearly half are pursuing engineering degrees.
  • 42 percent of educators come from North America or Western Europe; 81 percent hold master's or doctorate degrees; 62 percent have been teaching for 10 years or less; they are most frequently interested in engineering and sciences.

ACCESS: The OCW site receives significant traffic from educational institutions, the United States military and high technology companies.

  • U.S. military domains generated 22,000 visits last year, 11th most of any domain and only below major commercial ISPs (i.e. Comcast, AOL, RoadRunner).
  • In total, Intel, Boeing, IBM, Raytheon, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard generated nearly 35,000 visits last year.

IMPACT: Visitors indicate that OCW has already had significant impact on their teaching and learning and expect even greater impact in the future.

  • 80 percent of visitors indicate the site has already had extremely positive or positive impact on their educational activities, and an additional 18 percent reported moderately positive to somewhat positive impact.
  • Almost 88 percent of visitors expect extremely positive or positive impact in the future, and nearly 12 percent expect moderately positive to somewhat positive impact.
  • Visitors strongly agree that the site has helped them be more productive (81 percent), helped them learn (88 percent) and increased their motivation to learn (80 percent).
  • 85 percent of educators strongly agree or agree they have improved their courses using OCW.
  • 93 percent of visitors would recommend OCW to others.

Evaluation conducted from October 1 through December 31, 2004. Information gathered from Web analytics, online intercept surveys, site feedback and interviews with a subset of people.

Anne Margulies

OCW Faculty Advisory Committee: Steven R. Lerman (chair), Marc Kastner, Eric Klopfer, Vijay Kumar, Stuart E. Madnick, Shigeru Miyagawa, Ann Wolpert, Dick K.P. Yue

Measuring Success

OCW Case Study Venezuela (PDF)
OCW Case Study Australia (PDF)
OCW Case Study Nigeria (PDF)
OCW Case Study United States (PDF)
OCW Case Study Greece (PDF)
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