Monday, November 22, 2004
Suspicions on MIT OCW
Its been a while since I've seen something new come from MIT on the free for education wagon, and I'm just getting better from 4 days of pretty hard core sickness - so I'm obviously keen to get back in here and comment.
A seed was planted in me about a month ago, after reading the one and only criticism I could find on MIT's OpenCourseWare. It suggested that MIT's courseware was mostly not so open at all - but rather promoting the sale of text books and other supportive materials...
Now, Thanks to MIT's Phillip Long presentation to the Sydney Institute I've been looking at some new teaching learning software that MIT are making available for free. But after reading about each of them, the only link I can find to obtaining a version of the software to try out is by sending an email...
Then that hard learned pessimisms about institutions and people who get paid too much started to leach back into me, as a feeling that the MIT saint wasn't as saintly as they like to make out. Perhaps I am too paranoid, too cynical - but it does strike me as strange that not a single Institution in Australia spouts such social and ethical ideology either in promo or in face value practice like MIT. But that could be just because Australian institutions aren't yet wised up to the promotional gains, and far reaching market penetration one can archive through making your products superficially free.
Take, MS Media Player, Internet Explorer, Flash Player, Apple Quicktime, Adobe Acrobat Reader, tolerance of software piracy, and many more softwares that have been made available freely, for the simple and heady idea of obtaining market penetration and dominating it with your designs, outlook and way of doing things.
Now I'm not saying that MIT are doing this... but there are some interesting lessons to be learnt from the marketing initiatives of the software giants. Perhaps MIT are trying to balance between the social and ethical contribution they promote, and the marketing advantage they do not. Or perhaps there is no marketing scheme behind MIT OCW. But if there is, I think its largely a possitive one, so long as users don't let themselves get locked in to an MIT view on things and are still willing and able to choose and use other OCW and tools.