Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Open Yale Courses

Our neighbor in New Haven, Yale University, has joined the amazing community of prestigious universities offering free access to course materials online. Yale's offerings, called Open Yale Courses, are in the form of video, audio, and accompanying materials like problem sets (with answers), exams, and lists of assigned readings: essentially the entire course except for interaction with the faculty member. Seven courses are currently available: Fundamentals of Physics, Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics, Modern Poetry, Death (Philosophy 176), Introduction to Political Philosophy, Introduction to Psychology, and Introduction to the Old Testament. At least 30 courses are planned for the next few years.

The video is high quality, filmed by university videographers, and tailored to the needs of the course. An article in Inside Higher Ed highlights the importance of displaying the board during a physics course, to show the discussed equations and examples. Transcripts and audio are available, and the video is available in several formats, including high bandwidth downloads.

All the materials are licensed via Creative Commons, so the materials can be reused noncommercially as long as credit is given. Yale has already entered into agreements with the governments of China and India to show the videos on state televisions, and individual faculty at universities in China, India, Mexico, Argentina, and Ethiopa have announced their intentions of including Yale materials in their courses (via the Yale Daily News).

Are you teaching or taking a similar course? These courses, as well as the other Open Courseware courses at other universities, represent a rich source of ideas and supplementary materials for instructors and students. These are wonderful for instructors teaching a new course or updating an old one. Or think of them as guest lecturers who are always available (just not for questions afterward). For students they represent the ability to get another perspective on a topic, and the access to world renowned scholars, without paying world renowned tuition.

And, of course, none of us (at least no one reading this) have an excuse anymore for not being lifelong learners.

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