Twofish's Blog

June 16, 2006

The question is not whether but where and who

Filed under: academia, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 5:51 am

Also in talking about open courseware, the question is not whether but where and who.  There is no technological barrier to keeping a faculty member from posting their course notes and lecture handouts in wikibooks, and there is also nothing keeping a faculty member from making wikimedia an integral part of their college curriculum.  The only thing that is stopping this from happening is that no one has done this yet.  Someone will in the next year or two, and once someone, somewhere in the world does this, I predict that everything is going to explode.  Within two to three years, the complete content for a standard undergraduate physics curriculum is going to be online, and there is going to be no reason for a faculty member to rewrite the lecture notes for a standard physics curriculum.  The 8.01 (intro physics) lecture is about to be obsolete.  One wonders if 8.01 is about to be obsolete.
I don't worry at all that the raw materials under a commercial permissible license that I would like to use will be available or not.  They will be eventually.  What I *do* worry a great deal about is that MIT is going to end up playing catch-up rather than leading the pack.  Once remixed materials appear on the internet, things are going to happen very, very fast, and MIT could very well get stampeded.  There is a window of about two to three years, that MIT has to be a leader in developing courseware.  After that someone else will do it.  MIT OCW is a wonderful thing, but I worry that history will record it being something like Altavista, Netscape, Global Navigator, or the GUI that Xerox PARC invented.  Almost great, but a missed opportunity.  That would be tragic considering the huge amount of effort to get this far.

MIT needs to ask itself some basic questions, like why should a student pay several thousand dollars for an undergraduate physics course when the whole thing is going to be packaged on the internet and available at their local community college for much less. (The answer that Harvard and Yale will use, so that you get social connections and access to the power elite is one that I find personally unacceptable.) 

The trouble with these discussions is that it is easy to come up with answers which the faculty can use to convince each other that everything is okay.  The problem is that the people they need to convince (parents, students, and society at large) may not care that the faculty has answers that satisify themselves.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Which is a long-winded way of saying I appreciate Joseph Wang’s passion for open sharing, but I’m frankly not sure I can keep up with him and keep my day job! See his posts here, here, here and here. Anyway, I’m happy to keep up a dialogue, but unless we can bring a little more focus to it, I’m not sure I can respond effectively. I’d like to hear carefully reasoned support for the repeated assertion that the NC clause kills mass collaboration, as I’m still not convinced on that point. Why for instance, would Wikipedia have been less successful had they included an NC clause? Are there comparisons of NC vs. non-NC projects out there that demonstrate this effect? […]

    Pingback by OpenFiction [ Blog ] » A note about passion — June 19, 2006 @ 2:17 pm


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