Reading MIT OCW Case Studies and Evaluation Report

September 27, 2007, [MD]

As noted in my OpenEd 4 submission, I really wanted to read the MIT OCW Case Studies and the MIT OCW Evaluation Report, and today I finally found time. The Case Studies are easy to locate, but the evaluation report was actually quite hidden.

I had a look at the case studies before, and they are all pretty much glorious - not a single negative comment, so very much a piece of marketing. They are also not very specific, although most of them are about educators who adopt some of the material for their own class. The evaluation report is quite long, but it’s actually just a web site statistics printout, interspersed with comments, as well as some findings from interviews and surveys. If you wanted how many people from a specific domain accessed a specific subpage, while using Firefox version 2.0 on Linux - this is a goldmine. The qualitative data seemed rather haphazardly interspersed though, mostly to break up the statistics.

I would have liked to see references to more research - for example they mention that CORE is doing very impressive work in China, but with no reference - I would love to know more both about the translated MIT content is being used in Chinese universities, and about the impact and process of Chinese universities themselves publishing lectures. I found two interesting resources though.

One is a book called Globalized e-learning cultural challenges by Andrea Edmundson, which contains an article by the Taiwanese translators of MIT OCW, talking about the process and challenges OOPS had in translating the MIT courses into Chinese, and a number of other articles that look interesting. I’ll order it on InterLibrary Loan, but have to wait a while, because I have a lot of books coming in for my thesis.

The other was a mention on the CORE website about a research competition, giving grants to several students to do research on OCW and OER in China. The first batch is in, and will be published soon on the CORE website. I will be looking forward to reading these - wish there was somewhere I could sign up to be notified, since I might well forget to check back. They are also announcing new scholarships for people interested - if you know about anyone doing OER research in China, let them know.

Through the CORE website, I also came across an OER I haven’t seen mentioned in any of the readings - SuperCourse, an OER resource on medical topics.

As for the things I took away from the evaluation, an interesting point was that although most lecturers were positive, a few were worried, either because a future book-deal might be imperiled, or because\

“I feel the need to make the material more polished for publication on OCW. I see this as a\ obstacle for rapid improvement of my lecture material.” (Music faculty)\ “Having highly polished course materials be the norm discourages innovation in thecurriculum.” (History faculty)\

Reading all the case studies of different schools around the world incorporating the material into their classes - in some cases quite wholesale - also did make me a little bit uneasy about this “educational imperialism”. Sharing knowledge is great, but if that results in all the universities in the world becoming mirror copies of MIT, that’s a blow to diversity. In the report, they say that UNESCO’s OER conference concluded that MIT’s OCW would be a boost to local production of OCWs in universities around the world - and I guess the CORE example in China really holds this up. I’d love to see these different OCWs exchange information and resources - what about integrating the video lectures with dotsub so that they can be collaboratively subtitled? I found a bunch of Chinese video lectures at, including a whole series on Chinese Culture in Russia and France. I am sure French people would be very interested in seeing the episode on China Fever in France in the 18th Century - a Chinese talking to Chinese about how Chinese were seen in France, how very meta.

One final thing I wanted, is to comment on something a teacher at MIT said about how MIT OCW allowed her an insight into what her colleagues were teaching, and through better understanding what they specifically taught in the math courses, she was able to relate it explicitly to her own engineering courses for her students. I’ve often thought about whether professors ever audit other professors’ classes, whether because they want to learn, or because they are curious about the teaching style and what not. I suspect it’s rare, which is unfortunate. This goes into my whole argument about pedagogics and teaching in higher education - which is something I am constantly exploring, and might be writing more about.


Stian Håklev September 27, 2007 Toronto, Canada
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