Gates Letter Cites OpenCourseWare Materials

Letter praises lectures from Professors Sadoway and Lewin

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., February 1, 2010 - In the recently released Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 2010 annual letter from Bill Gates, Mr. Gates singles out MIT OpenCourseWare video lectures from Professors Don Sadoway and Walter Lewin as exemplary of the kinds of digital resources that can have transformative impact on education. Mr. Gates writes, "If you are going to take the time to listen to a lecture, you should hear it from the very best. Now that finding and watching videos is a standard part of the Internet experience, we can put great teachers' lectures online."

Mr. Gates also identifies one of the key emerging challenges for the open educational resources movement that MIT's program helped to launch---organizing the content. More than 200 universities worldwide have joined MIT in sharing course materials through the OpenCourseWare Consortium, collectively publishing the content of more than 13,000 total courses. Countless other universities and professors are sharing other types of open resources, including journal articles, simulations and animations, data sets, text books and software tools.

"There is a lot of online material being developed," writes Mr. Gates, "but it isn't organized in a way where it is easy to find the best material that fits what you want to do. If you search online for a video on photosynthesis, you get tens of thousands of results, including a lot of student projects. Which one is best for teaching kids of different ages and different pre-existing knowledge? We need a simple way of taking all of the education pieces and organizing them and then rating them in context."

Through the OpenCourseWare Consortium, MIT and other OCW programs are currently exploring was to address this challenge. The OCW Consortium's website already acts as a hub for the OpenCourseWare Community, linking out to member course materials worldwide. The OCWC site also supports a basic federated search across member sites. Consortium members are collaborating on additional ways to support rational use of open educational resources, such as Tecnológico de Monterrey's Knowledge Hub.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, the foundation focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, the foundation seeks to ensure that all people–especially those with the fewest resources–have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

About MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in the teaching of substantially all of MIT's undergraduate and graduate courses–more than 1,970 in all–available on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. OCW receives an average of 1.5 million web site visits per month from more than 215 countries and territories worldwide. To date, more than 65 million visitors have accessed the free MIT educational materials on the site or in translation.

About the OpenCourseWare Consortium

The OpenCourseWare Consortium is a collaboration of more than 200 higher education institutions and associated organizations from around the world creating a broad and deep body of open educational content using a shared model. The mission of the OpenCourseWare Consortium is to advance formal and informal learning through the worldwide sharing and use of free, open, high-quality education materials organized as courses.