Wednesday, April 16, 2014

FREE Higher Education via OpenCourseWare

Education is the only way forward in this age of science and technology. Developed countries have great institutions and best teachers. Rich people of poor nations could realize their dreams to reach those institutions... Then technology took charge and provided new ways to share the knowledge around the world. Internet provided this opportunity. Nowadays, social media is so popular in sharing views and news, but then there another revolution took place about 12 years ago, which changed the structure of many educational setups. That revolutions is called OpenCourseWare. Some people, mistakenly, might think of this movement as Open Source movement. Although basic purpose of these movements is same but Open source is a source which information is shared with the rest of the world for free allowing other people use the information that they have. Like wikipedia. But OpenCourseWare is about sharing educational material in organized form.

"An OpenCourseWare(OCW) is a free and open digital publication of high quality educational materials for colleges and universities. These materials are organized as courses, and often include course planning materials and evaluation tools as well as thematic content."

OpenCourseWare(OCW) was initiated in Sep,2002 by MIT. MIT offered free courses because they wanted to enhance human learning worldwide by the availability of a web of knowledge. Initially they offered 32 courses online for all students around the world. In Sep,2003, about 500 courses were offered and in 2004 this count was 900 courses. Now total more than 2000 courses and being offered by MIT. These courses were conducted and managed by MIT professors. These courses provided true picture of MIT values of excellence, Innovation and Leadership. After MIT, this facility of open course ware was launched by Yale University, University of Michigan and The University of California Berkeley.

In 2005 OpenCourseWare Consortium was formed. This consortium provided guidelines about the OCW projects. Main principles of OCW were defined to establish minimum standards for the courses. Consortium outlined that OCW
- is a free and open digital publication of high quality educational material organized as courses.
- is available for use and adaptation under an open license, such as certain Creative Commons license.
- does not typically provide certification or access to faculty

Ten years after the OCW revolution, in 2012 MIT and Harvard University announced the formation of edx. edx is a platform for Massive Open Online Course. edx was launched to host
university-level courses in a wide range of disciplines to a worldwide audience at no charge and to conduct research into learning.

Now when more then 525,000 students and almost same qty of self learners are benefiting from OCW, world is lending hands to promote the revolution. Universities from all over the world are participating in the program. Govt of many countries also putting efforts to use avail this opportunity. OCW movement started in China in Sep,2003. Chinese Govt. approved to initiate the CORE (China Open Resources for Education). More than 100 universities became member of CORE. They started translating courses from English language to Chinese. At Feb, 2008, 347 courses had been translated into Chinese. Now more than 1000 universities and other institutes are part of the CORE and more than 5000 courses are available online for free of cost and easy to understand because these courses are in their own language. About 20 Million people are getting benefit from these courses.
In 2003, Chinese Govt. launched their own version of OCW. The name of this program is China Quality Courses. This program accepts applications from university lecturers that which to put their courses online for free and reward them. In 2004 Feb, CQC announced about 150 courses. Now in 2014, There are more than 20,000 online courses available to all the Chinese people for free.(

Indian Govt. spent more than 204 million Rupees from NPTEL platform. In three years time they developed 110 video courses and 129 web based courses. Now in the next phase, they plan to create over 1000 web and video courses.

Japan started work on OCW in 2002. In 2006, they had over 600 courses. There are few experts in content production, which make it difficult to get support locally.

In Pakistan, Virtual University initiated OCW. Virtual University offered more than 150 courses in wide range of subjects. These courses are free as per OCW policy. This is great opportunity for Pakistani students who can not participate in regular classes due to any reasons. Except VU there is not a single prestigious University of Pakistan who joined hands to become part of this movement.
Govt of Pakistan seemed least interested in investing anything at all. In my point of view Govt. of Pakistan should tape this opportunity and come up with some innovative aim based courses like: math, physics,chemistry, computer sciences, family planning, health care, democracy, etc. and all other topics which we want to inculcate on mass level. It is a huge opportunity, knocking at our doorstep. It will be a misfortune to miss the change.

Biggest misfortune however, would be the ignorance of the students and the educators. I request all readers of this post that they must share the link with other friends. Last week, I earned a certificate by completing my first course on Foundations of Teaching for Learning. This course is freely provided by Now, I am doing some more courses from the MIT and Udacity websites. I am providing facilities to those who are interested in learning for free. You can contact me here msaleemawan, if you wish to attend these free courses in groups under the supervision of experts. Experts at our campus will help you understand video lectures and notes. They will also provide you guidelines about solving quizzes and assignments.

At the end, I would like to provide motivational example for my readers. This is the  story of a 12 years old girl Khadija Niazi from Lahore, Pakistan. She is taking online courses offered by Coursera and Udacity. She was recently interviewed by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman at World Economic Forum 2013 at Davos, Switzerland.

Khadija was the featured guest in a session on online education sponsored by Victor Pinchuk Foundation. She was joined on stage at WEF by Bill Gates, Larry Summer, Daphne Koller (Coursera co-founder), Rafael Reif (President of MIT), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia founder), Peter Thiel and other dignitaries. Khadija attends a local school in Lahore. She was only 10 years old when she first took the Artificial Intelligence online course on Udacity. She managed to finish the course and, the following year, Khadijah completed Udacity’s Physics course with highest distinction. She now plans to take courses in Astrobiology.

Now its your turn to become next beacon child for others.

No comments:

Post a Comment