MIT Considers Charging for OpenCourseWare

Please note that the New York Times article that this post was based on was proven to be incorrect. MIT will not be charging for OpenCourseWare. You can read more here.

MIT’s OpenCourseWare has long been a popular option for course material for many homeschooler’s with high school students. From the OpenCourseWare site:

MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity….
…Each course we publish requires an investment of $10,000 to $15,000 to compile course materials from faculty, ensure proper licensing for open sharing, and format materials for global distribution. Courses with video content cost about twice as much, but your feedback about the significant value of these video materials helps to justify the cost.

According to Wikipedia, the project is “jointly funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and MIT.”
Today, however, the New York Times ran an article stating that MIT is considering charging for OpenCourseWare in the future. According to the Times:

Long a leader in the Open Course Ware movement, which provides free and open access to high-quality educational materials, M.I.T. has come under increasing financial pressure because of the fall in the value of its endowment.
From a high of $10.1 billion in 2008, M.I.T.’s endowment has shrunk to $7.6 billion. According to University World News, an online newsletter, putting courses behind a paywall is one of a number of measures designed to deliver $150 million in cuts over the 2009-12 period. — D.D. GUTTENPLAN

At the same time, the OpenCourseWare site states on it’s FAQ that this fall they intend to run a pilot ad-service program.

The goal of this pilot is to see how well this messaging approach meets our internal needs: increasing the number of newsletter subscribers, encouraging more visitors to donate, highlighting special content on our site, and providing visibility to other programs at MIT. Later phases of the pilot may explore underwriting recognition in a model similar to that used at NPR. In all cases, MIT faculty will be notified prior to the appearance of any underwriting on their courses and will be given the opportunity to opt out of any such program…
…Underwriting recognition would not generate enough income to support OCW, but could be an important part of an overall sustainability solution. We would continue to rely on direct funding from MIT, gifts from visitors, major support from donors and sponsors, and other sources of revenue in addition to possible underwriting support.

I don’t know if the FAQ has not been updated or if they plan to try the ad program first and if that does not work, they will then start charging. My kids have never liked the OpenCourseWare model, so it will not affect us. I’m curious to hear from people who currently use or have used in the past the OpenCourseWare program? Would you still use MIT’s OpenCourseWare program if you had to pay for it? If so, how much would you be willing to pay?

Labels: High School, This and That, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff