All entries for Saturday 01 January 2005

January 01, 2005

Lecture notes & Universities

MIT's OpenCourseWare: a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners around the world. OCW supports MIT's mission to advance knowledge and education, and serve the world in the 21st century. It is true to MIT's values of excellence, innovation, and leadership.

I haven’t read a great deal about this on the net, but it’s great that MIT, along with many other reputable universities worldwide are willing to make course notes available online. Providing notes gives potential pupils an idea of the depth to which topics are covered and allows the layman to gain basic knowledge of many topics even if they’ll never be formally assessed. Notes are also of use to students in rival institutions in need of alternative explanations in order to fully grasp a topic. A greater collective stock of knowledge and an increased propensity to acquire new learning can only be a positive thing.

Clearly, the benefit derived from such notes is increased substantially if one has the support of lecturers, tutors and fellow students. As such, it’s unlikely that universities will ever become obsolete. However, it would be great if there was more flexibility as regards paying for tuition i.e. allowing students to opt out of lectures for a given module, or to attend only those classes which are considered potentially useful. Fees paid should reflect the level of support a student has received. That an english student pays the same fees as a physicist is bizzare given the latter’s extensive laboratory sessions and the cost of equipment required.

For a highly motivated individual on a course conducive to private study, many lectures and classes are rendered redundant. £18 000 is a large price to pay for a university education when one could potentially perform equally well with a library subscription, textbooks and much self-discipline. I probably couldn’t handle my course though self study alone, but it wouldn’t hurt to be able to choose how much interaction with lecturers and tutors I need. Obviously, universities have little incentive to permit such flexibility for undergraduate students – why lose the luxury of a regular, guaranteed income stream

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