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Have you ever searched the worldwide web for online learning or courses? Do you have an interest in quality online education at the college level? There is a growing resource of free, college level courses in a wide variety of topics from colleges and universities around the world available at your fingertips.
While you won’t earn college credits for your OpenCourseWare learning, you will have free and open access to course materials from the originating college or university. You may wish to pursue a new interest or refresh an older interest. Higher learning institutions such as MIT, Notre Dame, University of Michigan and Tufts University are just a few of the OpenCourseWare providers.
History of OpenCourseWare, OCW
OpenCourseWare, or OCW, is free publication of course materials provided in an open, digital atmosphere that was initiated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in April 2001. The MIT program started the ball rolling by opening 50 of its courses to the public through a pilot program in September 2002. Both the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the William and Flora Hewett Foundation were original funding partners for the project, whose initial goal was to make at least 1800 courses available through OCW.
By September 2004, MIT OCW had made 900 total courses available to any and all interested persons in search of learning. In May 2005, Japan initiated its own OCW, with six universities comprising the Japan OpenCourseWare Alliance.
In April 2005, the OpenCourseWare Consortium was created, making a central place for institutions of higher learning from around the world to make their OpenCourseWare available. Membership in the consortium is voluntary, and while many colleges and universities from around the globe are members, there are other OpenCourseWare providers who are non-members.
In July 2011, the OCW Consortium partnered with the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources, with the goal of expanding and making best use of available OpenCourseWare. Online learning opportunities from over 200 community colleges in the United States are now part of the OCW Consortium.
Free Online Learning Opportunities
The OpenCourseWare Finder is one tool to help you navigate the myriad of OpenCourseWare courses available. It represents six of the many OpenCourseWare institutions available, including Tufts University and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
A more comprehensive method of finding available OpenCourseWare courses is through the OCWConsortium website. Here you can search for courses and science fair projects through subject matter, browse courses by language or by source. For example, a search for courses on psychology in English produced 81 available courses; a search for courses on statistics in English produced 123 available courses.
College level learning has never been this available to anyone in the world regardless of finances, age, geography, or prior education. Although no grades or college credits will be earned, no one can take away the knowledge you acquire through OpenCourseWare.