MIT’s OpenCourseWare and Highlights for High School

MIT OCW

MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) has been a great success. OCW is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to put all of the educational materials from its undergraduate- and graduate-level courses online, free and openly available to anyone, anywhere in the world. The OCW initiative was launched in 2001 and shares the MIT’s mission to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship to best serve the nation and the world. As of December 2007, OCW provides free lecture notes, homework problems, exams, streaming videos, and other resources from more than 1800 courses spanning MIT’s entire curriculum. This is very impressive, especially it takes less than 6 years for MIT to achieve this milestone. The OCW initiative has encouraged a number of other institutions (including the University of Notre Dame, the University of California at Irvine, and Utah State University) that have followed MIT’s lead and started making their own course material available free online.

OCW SE

Five years after MIT’s OpenCourseWare initiative, MIT is now making its way into secondary education with the launch of “Highlights for High School” on November 28, 2007. Highlights for High School, also known as OpenCourseWare Secondary Education or OCW SE, is a new Web site that provides resources to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction at the high school level. The Web site is designed to help inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists and to be a valuable tool for high school teachers. OCW SE organizes the course materials currently featured on OCW-including 1,800 syllabi, 15,000 lecture notes, 2,600 videos, audio clips, and animations, 9,000 assignments, and 900 exams-into a format that is more accessible to high school students and teachers. The following subjects are covered in the Highlights for High School:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computers and Electronics
  • Engineering
  • Foreign Languages
  • Math
  • Media, Music and The Arts
  • Physical Education
  • Physics
  • Social Sciences
  • Writing and Literature

According to MIT President Susan Hockfield, “Strength in K-12 math and science will be increasingly important for America if the nation is to continue to lead in today’s innovation economy. Highlights for High School will provide students and teachers with innovative tools to supplement their math and science studies. We hope it will inspire students to reach beyond their required classwork to explore more advanced material and might also encourage them to pursue careers in science and engineering.” It is estimated that 10,000 U.S. high school teachers and 5,000 U.S. high school students already visit MIT OpenCourseWare each month. MIT expects Highlights for High School to make MIT’s course materials even more useful to these audiences.

I applause MIT’s outstanding effort to bring OCW to secondary education. Educators, teachers, and students in the U.S. and around the world will benefit greatly from the high quality educational resources provided free by MIT. Teaching in secondary education will never be the same again, particularly for the AP subjects in many schools that lack of budgets and support. I expect many leading institutions in the U.S. will soon follow MIT’s lead and offer free course materials and resources to secondary education.

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About Steve Yuen

I am a Professor Emeritus of Instructional Technology and Design at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States.
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One Response to MIT’s OpenCourseWare and Highlights for High School

  1. James M. Thompson says:

    When I taught in a rural school district located in South Carolina, funding was always an issue. Although many individuals may believe that having more money is not always a solution to address the vast number of problems among students not learning, I believe that having more money is advantageous and should be used to hire more qualified and experienced teachers. This is a major issue among many rural school districts across the United States. First of all, it is quite difficult to attract highly qualified teachers to relocate and teach in rural and sometimes dilapidated areas of the country. Another dilemma is not offering teachers a competitive salary to relocate from an urban or suburban school district to a rural school district. Since school districts are faced with this obstacle, it should not deter students from receiving a superb education. But more than often, school administrators are forced to place teachers in classrooms that are not qualified to teach in a specific content area. This can become a huge problem for both teachers and students. Teachers become frustrated and uncomfortable in teaching an unfamiliar area. Students are cheated from a quality education, which can hinder their chances from achieving a high score on the college entrance exams.
    The introduction of MIT’s OpenCourseWare for Secondary Education (OCW SE) can help to curb many dilemmas in rural school districts from being able to hire teachers that are qualified to teach AP courses. For example, schools can use teachers that may be qualified in secondary science but not necessarily in AP chemistry to serve as a facilitator in the AP course. The teacher can use the information from OCW SE to facilitate learning to a group of eager learners who are preparing for future careers in aeronautic engineering or even better, a career in computer science.

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