This month’s Resource of the Month comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which, in 2000, initiated an OpenCourseWare (OCW) program to publish their course materials online, making them available free for anyone to use! Every MIT department and degree program posts course information with a syllabus, lecture notes, reading assignments, and additional learning exercises and exams. The site (https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm) even offers a special “OCW Educator” portal to help teachers find specific content for use in their classes.
The home page displays icons for a dozen or more featured courses, tagged as material for educators, a video, an editor’s pick, or a new course offering. At mid-right, “OCW Educator” previews the offerings in instructional approaches and teaching materials, as well as a video of MIT faculty discussing teaching. For an overview of OCW, you can click the large dark-red “Get Started” arrow at far right.
Near the top of the home page, a toolbar lists several options: Find Courses, About, Donate, and Featured Sites. Find Courses opens a menu that lets you search for courses by topic, MIT course number, department, instructional approach, or teaching materials. Searching by “topic” opens a screen with several windows: the first displays a dozen academic areas; choosing “Science” from this list, opens a list of five Sub-topics; from them, you can choose “Biology,” and then, from a list of specialties, pick “Genetics.” The result shows all MIT courses involving Genetics! Our favorite title is: “Of Mice and Men: Humanized Mice in Cancer Research.” Click the title for a course’s summary, number, level, instructor’s name, and features. You get the idea!
However, rather than clicking Find Courses on the homepage toolbar, you could choose Featured Sites and get a drop-down menu showing “Highlights for High School” and “OCW Educator.” “Highlights for High School” focuses on OCW materials best suited for high school teachers and students – some from MIT’s curriculum, others created expressly for high school use. “OCW Educator” expands on the homepage preview, so teachers can search for educational resources by the instructional approach and teaching materials. You’ll note that these were among the search options above (we searched for courses by “topic”). Picking “instructional approach” or “teaching materials” from that earlier menu also takes you to “OCW Educator.” Despite multiple routes to materials, the site is easy to navigate and packed with great resources.
Incredibly, no sign-up process or enrollment is required to use OCW materials, which can be accessed and used on your own schedule with no time restriction. One fascination of the site is the rich variety of courses on any chosen topic, and how courses are organized and material presented by MIT’s outstanding faculty. Building on MIT’s academic rigor and reputation, the OCW site is designed to stimulate interest and ambition among students who might consider MIT out of reach. “Highlights for High School” includes resources on Exam Preparation, as well as opportunities to learn about MIT’s application process, admissions, and financial aid.
About the Creators:
When MIT initiated their OCW program in 2000, it was the first time any institution had committed to making a university’s curriculum freely available on the Internet. Major funding support for the OCW website, viewed by more than 1.5 million visitors per month, comes from MIT alumni. In 2010, the program received Science [magazine]’s Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE), which identifies and promotes the best online materials for science educators (see https://www.aaas.org/news/mit-s-opencourseware-viewed-millions-worldwide-wins-science-spore-prize).