Unlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities Are Opening Up Access to Their Courses

Unlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities Are Opening Up Access to Their Courses

Unlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities Are Opening Up Access to Their Courses

Unlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities Are Opening Up Access to Their Courses

Synopsis

Over the past decade, a small revolution has taken place at some of the world's leading universities, as they have started to provide free access to undergraduate course materials--including syllabi, assignments, and lectures--to anyone with an Internet connection. Yale offers high-quality audio and video recordings of a careful selection of popular lectures, MIT supplies digital materials for nearly all of its courses, Carnegie Mellon boasts a purpose-built interactive learning environment, and some of the most selective universities in India have created a vast body of online content in order to reach more of the country's exploding student population. Although they don't offer online credit or degrees, efforts like these are beginning to open up elite institutions--and may foreshadow significant changes in the way all universities approach teaching and learning. Unlocking the Gates is one of the first books to examine this important development.


Drawing on a wide range of sources, including extensive interviews with university leaders, Taylor Walsh traces the evolution of these online courseware projects and considers the impact they may have, both inside elite universities and beyond. As economic constraints and concerns over access demand more efficient and creative teaching models, these early initiatives may lead to more substantial innovations in how education is delivered and consumed--even at the best institutions. Unlocking the Gates tells an important story about this form of online learning--and what it might mean for the future of higher education.

Excerpt

The seven case studies of “online courseware” initiatives presented in Unlocking the Gates are instructive in a number of ways. At the most basic level, the rich detail provided by Taylor Walsh (on the basis of numerous interviews she conducted with the key participants, as well as her close examination of memos, reports, reviews, and other written materials) allows the reader to understand the thinking that went into the Fathom and AllLearn experiments, MIT’s bold creation of OpenCourseWare (OCW), Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI), Open Yale Courses (OYC), webcast.berkeley, and India’s National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL). Considered together, these seven initiatives illustrate the many different options open to universities that wish to undertake online courseware projects, which differ from the by-now standard distance education models. This compilation of case studies demonstrates that there are multiple choices to be made in determining

Online courses in higher education typically take the form of credit-bearing distance education for enrolled students—some of whom take a mix of online and traditional oncampus courses, while others complete entire degree programs online. According to a 2009 report on online education in the United States commissioned by the Sloan Consortium, “over 4.6 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2008 term,” placing the rate of higher education students who take at least one of their courses online at more than one in four (Allen, Elaine, and Jeff Seaman, “Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, 2009,” report supported by the Sloan Consortium and the Babson Survey Research Group, January 2010, 1). Colleges and universities can also use a growing number of specialized “course modules” provided by for-profit companies such as Statistics.com—in effect, outsourcing some of their teaching. See Kolowich, Steve, “The Specialists,” Inside Higher Ed, April 5, 2010.

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