In 2001, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced its intention to make freely available online resources related to their courses. They called this project OpenCourseWare, and the site went live in 2002. By 2007, MIT had reached their goal of publishing virtually all the 1,800 courses taught at the university. For each course, they published the course description, reading lists (syllabi), and in many cases they have also provided lecture slides, final exam questions, and even video or audio recordings of lectures. In 2005, MIT helped form the OpenCourseWare Consortium was formed to spread this model to other universities (Vest, 2004).
In this paper, I will use the generic term Open Courseware to describe all projects that aim to publish resources related to a conventionally taught course online. This includes some projects that do not formally associate with the OpenCourseWare Consortium, or use the same name, but whose practices are similar. So far, 21 other American universities have joined the OCW Consortium, but only a few of them are top-tier universities (OpenCourseWare Consortium n.d.). Instead, the MIT example has promoted a number of other initiatives from top-tier universities who want to brand their own offering, such as Yale’s Open Yale Courses, Stanford Engineering Everywhere. The idea of Open CourseWare has received no national policy support, but in one case (Utah) received support from state legislators (Utah System of Higher Education 2007). Internationally, universities in more than 30 countries have joined the OpenCourseWare Consortium, and there are national coordinating bodies in countries like Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Spain.