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Education The Internet

MIT Everyware 200

TeachingMachines writes "David Diamond has written a very readable article at Wired News titled MIT Everyware that follows up on MIT's OpenCourseWare initiative (previous story). It turns out that one of the most popular courses has been '6.170 Laboratory in Software Engineering, Fall 2001.' Diamond notes that '[u]ltimately, MIT officials know, OpenCourseWare's success depends on the emergence of online communities to support individual courses.'"
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MIT Everyware

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    because we all know the bubble has burst and programming is being shipped out to India / China as fast as the MBA's can, sillicon valley is a mere shell of what it used to be so
    you would of thought Law would be the popular subject seeing as that seems to be an expanding industry in USA

  • Good Project (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kronos666 ( 555566 ) <sauger.zerofail@com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:47AM (#6823575)
    Well, this is a pretty good idea for people who don't have time, or even, the transportation for university. Of course, there will probably be debates to see if these courses will be admissible for diploma...
    • Re:Good Project (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ScottGant ( 642590 ) <scott_gant AT sbcglobal DOT netNOT> on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:06AM (#6823742) Homepage
      So far though, there are very very very few complete courses on OpenCourseWare.

      When I say complete courses, I mean complete with lecture notes, assignments, readings, and most importantly the video of the actual class lectures.

      Just having the lecture notes...basically just PDF's that outline very very briefly what was covered that day, isn't really the same as taking the course.

      Also, MIT states plainly this site is just for information and one can NOT get a degree or credits for viewing this info. But the courses that have video lectures...like the Linear Algebra course...are excellent to brush up on the subject.

      I just wish they had more video lectures like Linear Algebra or 8.02 Electricity and Magnetism. But I also understand that it's a tremendous effort to get this all on Web...AND be totally free.

      I think more content goes online in Sept. though, according to all their timelines on the site.

      I totally applaud MIT and this monumental excercise. Bravo!!
    • All this success has bred a few problems. For starters: profiteering. I show Margulies an email from Thailand. "A group of us here are considering opening a University devoted solely to 'e-learning courses from MIT!'" writes the sender, who says he hopes to offer "Bachelor of Science degrees in MIT Studies."

      "He can't do that!" she shrieks.

      Soon, the budding entrepreneur is sent a stern reply stating the guidelines: People are free to use, modify, translate, and distribute OpenCourseWare as long as they don
    • Re:Good Project (Score:5, Informative)

      by s88 ( 255181 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:16AM (#6823816) Homepage
      "Of course, there will probably be debates to see if these courses will be admissible for diploma..."

      Probably only between people such as yourself that have not read any of the FAQs [mit.edu]:

      "MIT OCW is not meant to replace degree-granting higher education or for-credit courses. Rather, the goal is to provide the content that supports an education."

      About 1/3 of the FAQs there plainly state that this is just the publishable material of the course; not at all a replacement for taking the course, and in no way is admissible for a diploma.

      If you've ever attended college and skipped a class, you should know there is absolutely no comparison between being in class and reading the notes on the web later. That being said, I think this is a great idea, and hopefully people will use it for its intended purpose.

      • Re:Good Project (Score:2, Interesting)

        by aeoo ( 568706 )
        If you've ever attended college and skipped a class, you should know there is absolutely no comparison between being in class and reading the notes on the web later.

        I beg to differ. There is hardly any difference because:

        1) There is almost never a need to ask questions. Most people understand right away what is being taught, and if they don't, professor is not going to stop an entire class for 2 hours so that 2 people can finally get it. Yes, you can ask after class, but then you're not talking about
        • Apparently your professors posted much better notes than mine... and the MIT OCW professors as well for that matter.

          There is always information missing from the notes.
      • From what I remember, you can learn everything you would *want* to know about a course just by reading a book. What you often can't learn is what you *need* to know (i.e. what's going to be on the exam).

        • Re:Good Project (Score:4, Insightful)

          by HeyLaughingBoy ( 182206 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @02:11PM (#6826298)
          From what I remember, you can learn everything you would *want* to know about a course just by reading a book

          Only for the mind-numbingly boring classes. I'm not arguing with you: I realize that many of these exist. But there are courses taught by excellent professors that you need to be present to get most of, because the instructor brings his experience to bear on the class. It's one thing to read about noise and bandwidth issues in communications wiring in a book; it adds a considerable depth when the professor tells you why he used fiberoptic cables in his space shuttle project.
      • If you've ever attended college and skipped a class, you should know there is absolutely no comparison between being in class and reading the notes on the web later.

        Absolutely! In many of my classes my time was more efficiently spend skipping class and reading the online notes.

  • This will come in handy when Slashdot 101 launches.

    If you fp, you get the pretty girl on the first row!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:48AM (#6823588)
    As Spokesperson for SCO I would like to state how proud we are to be responsible for MIT. All of MIT. we have a team at MIT doing some great work. Well, we have a team of MIT people who aren't completely involved with MIT anymore. Alright some of them are dead. OK, OK, we picked up some dead people with the same name as some people who once walked by MIT.

    But it's a great team, really.
  • by fuzzix ( 700457 ) <flippy@example.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:48AM (#6823590) Journal
    You may have completed the material but that doesn't mean you can stick 'MIT degree!!' on your Curriculum Vitae.
    I'm reading Laboratory in Software Engineering myself, but only because it's interesting - it will probably prove of little benefit in the marketplace.
    Still, an excellent initiative - while other universities are milking every cent they can MIT are actually promoting an interest in learning and sharing of information. Excellent stuff.

    • When Knowledge is free or easier to access the degree becomes less useful / valueable. What will happen is, someone will offer a certification test and people will take that test and instantly be MIT certified, meaning they have the knowledge level of an MIT graduate and its verified via exams.

      This is what the computer industry did, I mean people are getting A+ certified, certified in everything from game development, to C++, to Linux even, so when when this MIT knowledge becomes more of a commodity what e

      • You should really try reading the article.

        You CANNOT get credit for coursework via this method. You still have to apply, be accepted, and take the class. In addition, you can't make money off it.

        Resume #1: Graduated MIT
        Resume #2: Certified to have read MIT coursework.

        Big difference.
        • by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:42AM (#6824079)
          You CANNOT get credit for coursework via this method.

          Duh, he's talking about trends in the near-future. The fact that MIT doesn't currently give credit for non-paying online students is irrelevant.

          Someday, the marketplace will drive colleges to split up their student-based revenue into two parellel streams: testing and tutoring.

          A person will be able to independently decide whether he wants MIT to educate him about a subject, to certify that he's been educated on it, or both. For quality schools, that certification will often be much more elaborate than a single test event.

          To some extent, a student can already choose to get only the tutoring portion and not the testing. This is called "auditing a class". But today, a person who's already so expert in a subject that she can safely skip each lecture and still pass the final has no way to avoid paying for those lecture sessions.
    • I have a degree in Computer Science. I got lots of theory, and what I believed to be a fairly descent education. However, after reading thru the course material for this "Introductory Level" material, I quickly realized that I didn't get quite the education that I had expected. Software design is a single senior level class for CS. Lots of "waterfalls and whirlpools", but little practical knowledge. Yes, theory is great... but I much enjoyed reading thru this material. Just to remind myself that I mus
    • There is a difference between reading it only because it's interesting and completing the material. If you have sufficient motivation, you can easily get much more from these materials than you can ever get from actual courses in most universities. Of course, whether you will know as much as MIT graduates is debatable. MIT argues that this is no replacement for actually attending their institute, but that surely depends on people. If you have motivation, you can easily get better than some of MIT graduates
      • 6.170 is a team course; a substantial part of the point is that it is more work than one person can do in a term, so you will have to work successfully with other students. So if you want to replicate the experience outside of MIT, you'll want to find 2-3 like-minded friends when you try it. Of course, you could do it when you had 3-4 times as much time to spend on it as a student taking a full courseload, but then you'd be missing half of the point: good design means that other people will be able to make
        • That's one course. There are 700 course currently available. Surely there are some where individual work is enough. I am not trying to say that visiting MIT physically + having access to online materials is the same as only having access to online materials. My point is that quite often individual distant learning is much more effective than visiting a real school, especially if you can't come to MIT and have to settle for whatever crappy school is nearby.
          • Certainly a motivated student can do better with a set of good coursework and no school than with a lousy course (or, more likely, a program that doesn't have a course that applies).

            I just wanted to point out that courses often have a substantial component that isn't purely information, which would need to be provided locally for the course to really work at all. I actually feel that MIT's coursework isn't necessarily better than other schools; what makes MIT work is that the students have access to really
            • As one of the articles mentions, the materials include audio and video lectures. What else do you need? :) In most schools worldwide you just sit in the lecture-hall and listen to the professor. In developed countries you just sit and listen (and doodle or make some random notes), in developing countries you have to write down everything...

              Group work is the only thing missing from MIT materials and it is not the most important thing, since it is usually also missing in most other schools.
  • by stonebeat.org ( 562495 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:49AM (#6823593) Homepage
    success depends on the emergence of online communities to support individual courses.
    However I also think the success depends on improvement to the courses based on the community response.
    Isn't this the philosophy all open-source, open-standard etc are based on?
  • Online Courses... (Score:5, Informative)

    by FileNotFound ( 85933 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:50AM (#6823610) Homepage Journal
    Online courses only really work in cases where people are highly driven or very short on time. As in medical school etc.

    Generaly the problem is that it's too easy to 'disconnect' from class and never open the book or do the homework as the web lectures and forum based discussions don't create the same level of attachment and group learning as class.

    I'm currently a college student and I have taken a web based class this term and the first few weeks adjusting to it was tough. I kept forgetting to check the boards, to post replies etc. Since you get graded on the level of discussion on the boards etc...first few weeks sucked.

    It's very nice though to have all the slides available 24/7 online, even ones from classes taught by other profs. Even better if they post last years tests 8-)
    • Oh, come on; how many of us had some classes in real physical college where we rarely showed up for class, and yet did the work and got an A? Well, how many of us here on Slashdot, anyways?
    • Re:Online Courses... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Moeses ( 19324 )
      I recently went back to school and finished my degree at RIT [rit.edu] taking almost all of my classes online through their distance learning program. Since I never felt much of a 'connection' with a physically present class in the first place I found this arrangment much closer to my ideal learning format than having to drive to class everyday, get there ontime, etc.

      I loved that I could do the bulk of my work after mid-night (I was working during the day). The key to making the class happen is having a responsive

    • In reality there is very little difference between an online course and an offline course, the difference is with an online course you have to do your own research, so what? This is the internet and it was built for research.

      Offline your teacher guides you more, "read book X", "Look at page Y" +lecture+lecture and repeat.

      I'm currently a college student and I have taken a web based class this term and the first few weeks adjusting to it was tough. I kept forgetting to check the boards, to post replies
      • "for learning history, english, philosophy, sociology, psychology, math, etc, youc an do just fine doing it online."

        Woah, there, tiger. English is not a print-only course of study, it is (or should be if it's worth anything) also a verbal activity. You need to hear the shit read out loud now and then, or else you might as well thumb through a phone book. English courses online would be a bit like doing a chem lab with a java app running a simulation: possibly useful to make a minor point, not much good as
  • Online U. (Score:5, Funny)

    by cheesekeeper ( 649923 ) <keeper&mac,com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:52AM (#6823625) Homepage Journal
    Online communities to support the university, eh?

    Party tonight at!!! OPEN PROXY! FREE SOFTWARE KEG!

    This is the future of online college.
  • The Top 10 list (Score:5, Informative)

    by I don't want to spen ( 638810 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:54AM (#6823654) Journal
    Here's the Top 10 from the lists

    Top 10 OpenCourseWare Nations*
    Rank Nation Hits

    1. Canada 3,886,197

    2. Germany 3,576,071

    3. Brazil 3,170,362

    4. South Korea 3,254,259

    5. France 3,012,102

    6. Japan 3,095,913

    7. United Kingdom 3,099,713

    8. China 2,563,446

    9. India 2,512,267

    10. Australia 1,372,052
    * Outside the U.S.
    Includes nearly 600,000 hits from mainland China, where the government denied access to OpenCourseWare until February 2003, and nearly 2 million hits from Hong Kong.

    Top 10 OpenCourseWare Classes

    1. Philosophy 24.00: Problems of Philosophy

    2. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science 6.170: Laboratory in Software Engineering

    3. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science 6.071: Introduction to Electronics

    4. Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences 12.409: Hands-On Astronomy: Observing Stars and Planets

    5. Mathematics 18.06: Linear Algebra

    6. Mathematics 18.013A: Calculus with Applications

    7. Nuclear Engineering 22.00J: Introduction to Modeling and Simulation

    8. Physics 8.02: Electricity and Magnetism

    9. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science 6.281J: Logistical and Transportation Planning Methods

    10. Management 15.810: Introduction to Marketing

    Nice to see that the 'Other Nations' are outside the US. And I'm glad its South (not North) Korea at No. 4, considering that Nuclear Engineering is at No. 7!

    • Nice to see that the 'Other Nations' are outside the US. And I'm glad its South (not North) Korea at No. 4, considering that Nuclear Engineering is at No. 7!

      Those figures are a bit misleading. The North Koreans are taking the course through a FidoNET [fidonet.org] gateway in South Korea. The link across the border is by an RFC2549 [faqs.org] connection.

      When will the U.S. learn, and stop educating its enemies?
  • This idea is genius. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HanzoSan ( 251665 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:04AM (#6823733) Homepage Journal

    I hope it really takes off, but what if its alittle bit too successful? What MIT does not understand is, if their courses teach alittle too well or the community grows alittle too large there might not be a need to actually pay MIT to take classes there besides the name recognition.

    This is the point I'm making, could this be MIT's suicide? Sure its nice of them and I plan to take full advantage of any knowledge they are willing to put out there, but the more knowledge they put out there the less valueable they become.

    • by aeoo ( 568706 )
      That's called altruism and it's always been at the heart of science.

      It always bothered me that actual knowledge is pretty worthless in getting job interviews, but rather your charm (personal and on resume) and "paper degree" is what counts. Maybe if University degrees lost their prestige, genuine knowledge and education (as opposed to mere credentials) would become more important.

      Yea, and don't even try to tell me "but you need that University given knowledge *after* you get hired" bullsh*t. Most gradua
    • Universities were meant to be centers of learning and education for the betterment of the larger society. People started MIT way back in the mists of time because they wanted to educate their kids and because they recognized that education has external benefits to everyone. The open courseware project is a logical extension of those ideals.

      It's a shame, but most universities behave as profit-maximizing firms (hoarding IP, seeking TV contracts and endorsements for sports teams, etc) when that's not reall

    • by jfw25 ( 618692 )
      The basic facts taught in an MIT class are generally the same basic facts taught in any reasonably competant university; perhaps you'll get more stuff crammed in you per unit time because they assume the students are sharper than average, perhaps you'll get slightly fresher basic facts when (for example) you take an algorithms course from Ron Rivest, but on balance the material you'll find in the course notes is the same. The real reason people want to go to MIT is what you do in between classes, and the s
      • by danila ( 69889 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:43AM (#6824086) Homepage
        That's precisely the attitude that Richard Feynman had when he graduated from MIT.

        When I was an undergraduate at MIT I loved it. I thought it was a great place, and I wanted to go to graduate school there too, of course. But when I went to Professor Slater and told him of my intentions, he said, "We won't let you in here."

        I said, "What?"

        Slater said, "Why do you think you should go to graduate school at MIT?"

        "Because MIT is the best school for science in the country."

        "You think that?"


        "That's why you should go to some other school. You should find out how the rest of the world is."

        ("Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! [amazon.com]", Adventures of a Curious Character, by Richard P. Feynman as told to Ralph Leighton)

      • The real reason people want to go to MIT is what you do in between classes, and the stuff which isn't in the course notes. You study with some of the brightest students on the planet, you do grunt labwork for some of the most cutting-edge researchers on the planet, and the idle musings (when a lecture runs a bit short) of someone like Rivest are priceless.

        The average person does not care about that stuff, and also theres bright people in every college, the MIT students are the most disciplined students
        • There are many folks that do not even have basic language skills or basic math/science skills. All the relevant information is already out there on the net. Just like, all the roads are there, but there are not many runners.

          "Certifications" can never substitute for a good education -- at least at a large scale. A really motivated good student will end up in a good program somewhere.

    • I haven't read MIT financials, but I guess they can survive on donations alone. If it turns out that traditional offline education model is obsolete and everyone and their cat is "attending" MIT virtually, then thousands of rich MIT graduates will stand in line to give their money to MIT. And we are talking about million dollar donations here.

      The only thing MIT had to worry about was becoming obsolete as other universities were becoming as good or better in teaching. It looks like they solved that problem

    • Don't be silly. People don't go to MIT to get an education. They go to drink beer and get laid...no, wait. That must have been some other college I was thinking of.

      Oh yes, I remember now. They go to MIT in order to assemble police cars [mit.edu] on the roof. Seriously, if you think college is all about classes, you missed out on your education.

      • MIT is all about classes, its MIT, its not a normal school.

        Try going to MIT and goofing off and see how long you last there.
    • Ultimately, the success of any institute of learning and research is significantly influenced by its reputation. Student fees, btw, are not the only (or, with such an institution as MIT, even the main) form of income. MIT, justly, has about the best reputation in the world in its core subjects. MIT will, justly, only reinforce its image as a pillar of the scientific community as a result of this initiative.
  • Now I can realize just exactly how dumbed-down and introductory my school's Computer Engineering curriculum is. And they said they wanted to be modeled after MIT...
  • by jilles ( 20976 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:10AM (#6823781) Homepage
    It's a nice excercise in object oriented programming though. I've been involved in software engineering education in two universities and this is by far the least realistic course I've seen. Realism is important because otherwise students won't understand what problems await them after they finish their education. You can't teach a student to deal with the pressure of deadlines, irrational behavior from customers, customers with other priorities then you, etc. They have to experience it and be taught how to do better.

    Here's how we do it (3rd year bachelor course): we group students into groups of 10, give them a contact person from a local IT company who acts as a customer and provides them with a realistic assignment (usually something that the company actually wants). Then we let them find out the hard way what software engineering is about. They have to negotiate requirements, sign a fictious contract for what they are going to deliver and then meet the terms of the contract. They have to come up with a realistic plan based on the available study points and people (i.e. 1 study points = 40 hours so 4 studypoints for the course and 10 people is quite substantial).

    Meanwhile we also give them a decent introduction to software engineering (using Ian Sommerville's book, which is quite comprehensive) and make sure they understand the basics of all relevant development phases. We guide them through requirements engineering, architecture design etc.

    Half way through the term after release #1, we shuffle the student groups and let them start a maintenance project on the project's first releases (i.e. you have to maintain somebody else's code with other people than during release #1).

    As you can imagine this is a rather stressful period for the students but the remarkable thing is that most of them actually deliver their stuff on time, as agreed in the contract. The companies involved benefit in two ways: they get access to students who have nearly finished their education and if all goes well they get some free development time and maybe even a usable prototype. We've been doing this for a few years now and we are quite pleased with the results.
    • Ian Somerville (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mccalli ( 323026 )
      Meanwhile we also give them a decent introduction to software engineering (using Ian Sommerville's book, which is quite comprehensive)

      I was taught by Ian Somerville - he's an interesting and very realistic person. One of the things he said to us was that in his class, he would tell us why the things we learnt in almost every other class were bad...

      This was an exaggeration of course, but his basic point was right. Tightly coupled systems, even techniques such as recursion...not so much a HOWTO as a WHYTO

    • I thought the purpose of Software Engineering courses was to teach entire classes of programmers that failure is always possible!!! Our class was a programming version of the "Kobiashi Maru"

      • The whole problem with software engineering in practice is that failure is very likely because many so-called software engineers don't understand their own profession. The better ones learned their trade in practice, not at a university.

        The key thing to teach to students about software engineering is that programming is the easy part. Most of our students are very surprised to find out that they can't sit down and hack away from day 1. They first have to figure out what the customer wants and then come up
    • I've been involved in software engineering education in two universities and this is by far the least realistic course I've seen. Realism is important because otherwise students won't understand what problems await them after they finish their education.

      The courses offered through OpenCourseWare by no means represent all of the courses offered through MIT. I would actually be surprised if the EECS department didn't offer a course similar to what you described. Certainly you can so similar work through the

      • I may be wrong, because I was Course VI and have no firsthand knowledge, but I think this is now 2.009, with groups of 10-12 and a budget more like $10,000. They build some pretty killer stuff in that class, on occasion.

    • MIT's CS stuff is in general not really big on realism. This course is the closest it gets - they do generally add and remove requirements on you in the middle of the final project. It's also generally not a realistic assignment, but that's okay with me - realistic assignments generally don't include an module that does alpha-beta search on a game space, which was a bit I wrote when I took it.

      But really, I've had many years since to get realism. Reality provides it. In large doses. I haven't had so man
  • Cost of MIT (Score:4, Informative)

    by AnotherScratchMonkey ( 592037 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:13AM (#6823796) Homepage
    I recall going to MIT in the early 80's and paying $5-7k per semester (just tuition). I'm surprised to see it hasn't gotten too much higher, about $15k now. Here's a link to the prices, which I found a bit hard to find on their website:

    Making MIT Affordable [mit.edu]

    Alas, I didn't graduate (ran out of money at the time) and don't see a way to get back into it. They don't seem to have any pages targeted at people who want to resume a long-interrupted stay.

    • Re:Cost of MIT (Score:3, Informative)

      by inburito ( 89603 )
      They can take pretty much anyone once admitted back in! Contact admissions and ask.

      I was talking with mit's financial aid and something like this came up. The downside is that you still need your parents income tax returns if you want any support. They mentioned as an example from few years back someone 30+ who was coming back to finish off their bachelors that got interrupted and he still had to go through the same procedure as fresh out of high-school kids to get any financial support. It is a good thing
  • by cavemanf16 ( 303184 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:18AM (#6823841) Homepage Journal
    I've been looking forward to "taking" some of the MIT classes online to further my own education. As I am currently in school at DeVry due to me working full-time, it's no wonder I'd be excited to be reading class material from MIT. This also will help me study up on the lower level classes like Physics and basic computer engineering topics so I can test out of them at DeVry, thereby speeding up my ability to graduate with a BS finally.

    And yes, I do consider this a true "Open Source" initiative, as we would normally have to pay thousands of dollars for such valuable structured training. While I may not get to 'contribute' much to the course per se, I will ultimately be able to contribute my new knowledge towards the general public body of knowledge without paying a company/university to do so. So in the broader sense, I think this is a great thing for open source computing, or otherwise.
  • One of the courses is Nuclear Engineering Course 22.312: Engineering of Nuclear Reactors!

    I thought there were laws against exporting this kind of technology? Instead of students from Nepal to Nebraska will be diving into the material, shouldn't the article have read governments from Pyongyang to Islamabad...?

  • OpenCourseWare value (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TrekkieGod ( 627867 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:35AM (#6823996) Homepage Journal
    OpenCourseWare is a lot of hype because it has the name "MIT" attached to it. I suggest anyone, especially the people currently posting about how great it is to get a system of education online, to click on the article description link and try browsing a few classes. Virtually every university has about the same content (basically just pdf slides of class lectures) in their class webpages, such as my power electronics class at the university of south carolina [sc.edu].

    Now, there are a few courses in OpenCourseWare that have videos of lectures, more organized readings and problem sets...but they're very few. If every course was published in that format, then I'd be impressed...and I don't mean every course MIT teaches, just every course listed in the dang OpenCourseWare site...it's such a waste of time to go, "oooh...this looks like a nice class" only to see that there's nothing in there you can learn from (some of them don't even have pdf lectures, just the syllabus and homework assignements for a textbook you don't have).

    • Well, yeah, instructors have been putting class content on the web for a long time. Less hassle than waiting your turn at the photocopier. When I need to look up some half-forgotten big of computer science, I go to Google, and almost always end up with some material from some state U somewhere, sort of an online handout. Very useful, even if it wasn't meant for me.

      But that's not what's exciting about the MIT initiative. They're not the first university to put class content online -- but they're the first

      • they're the first to do so in a standard format on a single server, with the announced goal of making all class materials available to the public at large.

        That's part of the "hype" I was referring to. What does "all" class materials mean? You do know faculty are not requrired and will never be required to post anything to OpenCourseWare, right? It's in the faq. That by itself guarantees you'll never have a standard content availability in all the classes. And having everything in the same format "on

        • I'm as hype-sensitive as the next guy. You can't work in the computer industry as long as I have without hearing and seeing a lot of it. But there isn't that much hype here. You're dismissing the whole thing as hype simply because it doesn't meet your specific requirements.

          I find it depressing how many techies, both on Slashdot and elsewhere, evaluate every product, project, or whatever, purely on how it works for them personally -- as if somebody were spending on that development money and effort solely

          • I *really* shouldn't reply, but calling people childish because you don't understand their arguments is something you should refrain from doing. I'm not dismissing it because it doesn't meet "my requirements". It's hype because universities have been putting that type of information online long before OpenCourseWare, even you admit that. It's not unique. Ok, so they put it all in one server, and gave all pages the same format and look...that's not a new idea in any form...it takes a sysadmin for the ser
            • It's hype because universities have been putting that type of information online long before OpenCourseWare...
              And I already told you why I thought there was more to the MIT thing than that. If you don't buy my arguments, fine. But simply ignoring them and insisting on the last word is childish. Sorry.
  • MIT is not the only school in the United States that has online notes. As a matter of fact, most of my classes had some sort of online reference avaliable. The key is that all these lectures notes are not intended to be the primary source of information. They are suppliments that help students to keep track of what has been studied throughout the semester. If you do not believe me, please go to the web site and read through some lecture notes. They represent typical outlines that help teachers in course org
  • nobility of purpose (Score:5, Informative)

    by nicodemus05 ( 688301 ) <nicodemus05@hotmail.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:02AM (#6824318)
    I'm currently paying my $42,000 to be an MIT student. There are people discussing whether OCW will make MIT obsolete, or whether it'll be financial suicide for the school. One person commented that it was erroneous to think of MIT as a for profit organization, which is exactly the point that needed to be made.

    From the MIT mission statement [mit.edu]:

    The Institute is committed to generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world's great challenges.

    It's one thing for a university to say something like that, but what I as a student can contribute to this discussion is the assurance that they're for real. TDespite huge military and government funding there are no secret projects on campus; every research lab is open to every student. Most parts of campus (including the extensive libraries) are even open to the public. Data is posted on the internet as soon as it can be verified... I feel silly listing these individual things MIT does to share information. That's probably because OCW is the single greatest step in that process.

    I'm not worried that my degree will be obsolete in 20 years. Other people may have learned the same material organized by the same professors, but the real value of MIT is the interaction with the teachers and the students. It comes with a hefty price tag, of course. Disclaimer: MIT isn't perfect. Every time I've mentioned the school before I've gotten flamed. Flame away. The school isn't perfect, but it does have a particular nobility of purpose.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:51AM (#6824805)
    I remember thinking a few years ago that I should have downloaded and archived all these *GREAT* course notes and lecture materials that the hip profs from Stanford, MIT, UW and other schools had put on line, but I didn't.

    And then, just as the idea of "courseware" started getting bandied about, many of those sites started to go offline or require local authentication. Why? Because MIT hyped up "open courseware" as if they had invented it, even though all kinds of course information (and more) had been available on school websites for years. And as always: Once marketing gets a few tentacles around cool geek technology, the squeeze is on... Don't get me wrong, MIT is hip and wonderful, but they forced the golden goose to be an egg donor - and it was painful to watch what happened over the next 18 months.

    Some of this stuff had been collections dating back to the mid to early 90's, and built by the kind of guys you WANT to listen to, guys who can compress the kind of experiences and insights you'll only get in 9 or 10 years of doing real work into a handful of lectures.

    And it was the whole thing, too, usually the prof's own notes, and materials, and old tests and EVERYTHING just dumped into websites (or ftp directories) to be sorted later. Not to mention collections of usenet posts, and source code, and outlines of old papers... A treasure trove that you could wade into, and find magic even if you didn't know what you were looking for.

    But then the schools started these initiatives-
    almost all of which were started shortly after MIT did the courseware announcement, and one by one all the campuses took an interest in what their teachers were posting. And then blammo! In a year or so, it became much harder to find these treasure troves, because MIT made the administrations takes note of the value of this information.

    Google later helped us to find things - sort of - and now you can find specific topics, but you can no longer find the huge amount of course notes you once could discover by simply popping over to the schools .edu web servers.


  • A similar project with a more open source flavor is the Connexions Project [rice.edu]. The feature I admire most about Connexions is the idea of creating open content which people can combine in different ways to make a textbook tailored to their course or their own interests. The following is the description of the Connexions project on the main web page:

    The Connexions Project is a collaborative, community-driven approach to authoring, teaching, and learning that seeks to provide a cohesive body of high-quality

  • So that's what it is! I give job interviews, and ask "What is the largest or most impressive computer program you've ever written?"

    Frequently if the applicant is an MIT student, they respond with "a pinball game". Now I can see what assignment [mit.edu] those kids were fulfilling with that game.

    Note that I don't consider it very impressive if a student has never made any program larger than a single semester's final project. A good programmer should have some love of the art, and will have 1-2 good hobbyist proj
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Back when I took this class, we used CLU. How dare they use a language that might actually prove to be useful to know after graduation!

  • For my Senior CS project, we built a system [slashdot.org] that would contain class information for the people in that class. It would also tie all your classes together into a single portal. One of our "wouldn't it be great if" goals would be to take take the class information on our site (similar to MIT's content in theory) package it, and ship it to other universities. What would be nifty about that, is there are many schools who simply don't have staff capable of putting together a class of the calibur MIT does in sub

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.