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.1 This compilation of case studies demonstrates that there are multiple choices to be made in determining
1Online 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.