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Date Author Title
2012-05-06 Steve Gardiner Online Education—Part 2—OpenCourseWare

Access to online resources is increasingly allowing lifelong learners to gain information about topics of interest to them. In school or out, students of all ages can expand their knowledge on almost any topic imaginable.

In the last Literate Learner article, I discussed students using YouTube videos to support their classroom work ( ) and this article looks at OpenCourseWare, the video class selection of courses offered free online through MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.


The list of courses by department is available at http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/audio-video-courses/#foreign-languages-and-literatures and gives the reader an excellent view of the broad spectrum of courses and topics. The courses provide audio and video segments selected from the classes including both lectures and presentations by the professors as well as audio and video segments of students presentations, questions, and discussions.


Courses are available in such areas as astronomy, chemistry, biology, mathematics, physics, foreign languages, history, engineering, music, media arts, literature, and urban studies. Each department offers one or more classes with some being sequential and others stand alone classes.


For example, one class that caught my eye is called Exploring Black Holes: General Relativity and Astrophysics and is taught by MIT professors Edmund Bertschinger and Edwin Taylor. The course overview states that students will study “physical effects in the vicinity of a black hole as a basis for understanding general relativity, astrophysics, and elements of cosmology.”


The selected video sessions for this class include topic such as Introduction to the Class, The Universe: Questions you were afraid to ask, Einstein's Field Equations, Cosmic Structure Formation: From Inflation to Galaxies, and others. Selecting a video takes the viewer directly into an MIT classroom to watch the professor and students interact. It is not a video production, but actual classroom presentations featuring the give and take, questions and answers (or not) that exist in an MIT classroom. For anyone who ever dreamed of attending MIT, the videos are a front row seat in the classrooms of that prestigious university.


In addition to the lectures and discussions, some of the classes include information on the assignments, projects, and examinations featured in the class so that viewers can participate to whatever extent they desire from just watching the videos to creating projects and writing papers along with the course participants.


Opening the door of MIT classrooms to anyone who happens to stroll by is an incredible concept made possible through the OpenCourseWare concept. With the variety of classes available and the number of videos and options within each class, there will be subjects and lessons of interest to almost any viewer. And it's all free.

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