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The Virtually Infinite Corridor...

By The Cunctator in Internet
Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 10:10:45 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

In the front-page article Auditing Classes at M.I.T., on the Web and Free, the New York Times reports that MIT is announcing the 10-year Open CourseWare Initiative on April 4, 2001. In short, MIT syllabi, lecture notes, and class materials will be available to the world...


...but remember, it will NOT be the equivalent of an MIT education! For example, the IAP Mystery Hunt puzzles are online, but the party isn't.

Professors Hal Abelson and Steve Lerman are the ringleaders of OCW@MIT. Prof. Lerman, as quoted in the article, said, "Selling content for profit, or trying in some ways to commercialize one of the core intellectual activities of the university, seemed less attractive to people at a deep level than finding ways to disseminate it as broadly as possible."

Prof. Abelson's 6.001 textbook is online, so he's already put his money where his mouth is; it retails for $65. He's deeply interested in Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier. Prof. Lerman, the faculty chairman, has directed MIT's educational computing research initiatives since 1983, first at Project Athena, and since 1991 at the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives.

Abelson and Lerman spoke about OCW at the February 12, 2001 undergraduate council meeting. The faculty discussed the initiative at the February 21, 2001 faculty meeting, as reported by MIT Tech Talk.

There are already hundreds of courses with at least some materials online, though some are only available on campus, like 4.203, while others are fully available, such as the dreaded 6.001, with the textbook online, and the beloved 6.270. There's other remarkable stuff from online course materials at MIT, including a calculation of the Bohr hydrogen atom ground state energy level from 3.091 and impossible problem sets from 16.230.

The mildly ironic subtext to all this is that Richard M. Stallman left the MIT AI Lab when it started using proprietary software with NDA's.

p.s. The Infinite Corridor, as anyone who's played The Lurking Horror by Infocom knows, is the impossibly long hallway that runs through the main MIT complex.

p.p.s. Wouldn't it be great if MIT worked with Nupedia or Project Gutenburg? (See this /. interview.)

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Poll
My favorite MIT course is...
o 18.747 6%
o 6.270 12%
o 9.59 0%
o 24.02 0%
o 22.77 12%
o MAS.450 0%
o KUR.05 31%
o 6.666 37%

Votes: 16
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Auditing Classes at M.I.T., on the Web and Free
o New York Times
o MIT
o IAP Mystery Hunt
o party
o Hal Abelson
o Steve Lerman
o 6.001
o textbook
o retails for $65
o Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier
o since 1991
o Center for Educational Computing Initiatives
o February 12, 2001 undergraduate council meeting
o February 21, 2001 faculty meeting
o MIT Tech Talk
o hundreds of courses with at least some materials online
o 4.203
o textbook online
o 6.270
o a calculation of the Bohr hydrogen atom ground state energy level
o 3.091
o impossible problem sets
o 16.230
o Richard M. Stallman
o MIT AI Lab
o when it started using proprietary software with NDA's
o The Lurking Horror
o Infocom
o Nupedia
o Project Gutenburg
o /. interview
o Also by The Cunctator


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The Virtually Infinite Corridor... | 10 comments (6 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
I think it's great (1.60 / 5) (#2)
by mami on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 02:05:35 AM EST

that's all.

I can run faster than light. (3.25 / 4) (#5)
by www.sorehands.com on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 02:21:27 AM EST

Really. I have run from the the building 7 entrance to building 8.

Since that is a fraction of the infinite corridor, that was ran in finite time, then I must have been running at infinite speed.

Isn't a fraction of infinity still infinite? and since it did not take infinite time, I must have been traveling in infinit speed. Since light travels at a finite speed, I ran faster.

For those humor impaired, this was a tortured attempt at humor.



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Aaargh! Not that MIT number madness again! Aaargh! (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by Estanislao Martínez on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 03:03:53 AM EST

Frankly, the times I've been to MIT, I've found all that number mania mind-numbingly annoying. "What are you majoring in?" "47." AAARGH!!!

In any case, does anybody have a non-NYT link?

One possible concern: does this initiative *force* professors to put course materials online? Who owns the materials?

--em

What you talkin' bout, Willis? (none / 0) (#7)
by The Cunctator on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 04:06:52 AM EST

There isn't any course 47. You must have been talking to a CMSA student.

I looked around for a non-NYT link, but it looks like they've scooped everyone. I'm sure there will be lots of stories about it tomorrow.

The initiative doesn't force professors to put course materials online, as you would know if you read the NYT article. From the faculty meeting article, "Participation by MIT faculty would be voluntary, and professors would have final say on which materials are made available."

In respect to IP, the closest answer I could find so far was from the NYT article:

Some professors, Mr.[sic] Lerman said, may end up having two Web sites: one for internal use with, say, large portions of a soon-to-be- published textbook, and one for external use. But he and others said that issues of intellectual property had surfaced little in the months of faculty discussion of the initiative. Rather, they said, a willingness, even an eagerness, to share appeared to dominate.
Take that as you will. Why don't you just ask Hal Abelson (hal@mit.edu) or Steve Lerman (lerman@mit.edu)?

[ Parent ]
But if the instructor owns the course materials... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by TuxNugget on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 07:32:54 AM EST

...then the university would be 'stealing' them to give them away.... In California, in the absence of a separate agreement, professors own their lecture notes and other writings -- not their employer.

It looks like MIT is deciding to get good PR out of something they are slowly doing already (putting materials online). Note the long proposed time line (10 years!) which gives them a way out of complaints that something is not available, and a way to deal with some inevitable legal disputes with profs who want to sell a textbook, lab workbook or other materials.

Lots of universities have online course materials, but it would be considered plagiarism for a prof elsewhere to copy them verbatim. Still, it is not unusual, as a student, to go fishing for better course notes than the ones you have at hand.

NY Times No-Registration Link (5.00 / 3) (#10)
by jester69 on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 10:52:00 AM EST

The MIT article


Its a lemming thing, Jeep owners would understand.
The Virtually Infinite Corridor... | 10 comments (6 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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