The Harvard Extension Open Courseware Project

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Overview

The idea is to start an Open Courseware initiative for Harvard Extension school. Particularly, I would like to target the course videos for distance education courses as ideal material that could be shared with minimal effort. It seems to me like the argument for this is very strong -- Harvard Extension exists to allow a wider audience access to a Harvard Education, so this effort really aligns perfectly with the core mission and values of Harvard Extension.

  • Some points:
  • Something makes me uneasy about Harvard excersizing too much intellectual property rights in its courses. Obviously, professors and the school do a lot of work to put the classes together. However, Harvard classes would not be possible without the great intellectual commons of the arts and sciences, the sum of human knowledge built up over the centuries. It seems to me that the way we earn our legacy of knowledge is to share it.
  • Are professors going to be willing to have their work licensed this way? Will they want to be paid more?

Ideas for how to start

  • Here is a working draft of a letter to the people in other OCW projects, requesting their help.
  • Contact MIT, Harvard Medical School Open Courseware project leaders for advice (NOT DONE YET). Here is the response from MIT:

Partick, Happy to help you drum up support. I'd suggest you check out the "Making the Case" sections of both the OCW Consortium and MIT "How To" sites: http://ocwconsortium.org/share/howto/case.html http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/HowTo/MakingTheCase.htm I also have plenty of data available on the benefits to MIT for having done the project. There's a section on MIT use and benefits in our latest evaluation report: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Global/AboutOCW/evaluation.htm and I can update some of it. After you've reviewed this, I'm happy to talk further. The main challenge is to identify influential faculty or deans and get them to champion the idea. Best, Steve Carson Senior Strategist OpenCourseWare | Massachusetts Institute of Technology One Broadway | 8th Floor Cambridge, MA 02142 Ph: 617.253.1250 | Cell: 617.633.4659 | Fax: 617.253.2115 AIM/Skype: scarsonmit http://ocw.mit.edu http://ocwconsortium.org http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/HowTo/index.htm

  • Determine whose approval and support we need from within the Extension School (NOT DONE YET)
  • Locate sources for funding (NOT DONE YET)

Overall Strategy

My thought is that perhaps it would be possible to get the extension school to deeply engage in this. After all, if we look at the tradition in which Harvard Extension was created, it was all about sharing the fruits of knowledge to a wider audience. We could try contacting:

  • The Dean
  • The Division of Continuing Education (DCE)
  • The IT guys/whoever currently does production+internet distribution of the video course materials -- If they got excited about it, they might be strong advocates for our technical feasability

Technical

There are obviously a number of technical aspects to this. The software platform needs to be integrated into professors' existing practices as well as possible. Hosting, editing, file formats, etc all need to be dealt with.

  • Where will the opencourseware site be hosted?
  • Will a new site created or will we just open up existing resources more?
  • Should Bittorrent (or similar) be used to reduce bandwidth costs?
  • Currently the Extension School releases videos in Realplayer(tm) 10 format. Should more open formats be considered?
  • How will other non-video course materials be presented? Should we simply collect as much course material as possible from each professor, and have our opencourseware team turn that into a relatively standardized, online format?

Participants

Please list yourself here if you are interested in helping with this project.

Useful links