What is MIT OpenCourseWare and How To Take Advantage of It

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the top universities in the world. It maintains a very high level of research activity and as of the writing of this post, 85 Nobel laureates have been affiliated with the university. Its prestigious undergraduate program is known for the rigorous course load and the notoriously selective admissions process.

With that, I’d like you to think about the possibility of all of that knowledge that is taught on MIT’s private grounds being available to the public for absolutely no cost at all. And that is exactly the scenario that MIT’s OpenCourseWare initiative seeks to create. You don’t need to be one of the lucky ones to attend MIT in order to enjoy and learn from its highly qualified faculty and superb course materials. How cool is that?!

MIT OCW gives users access to materials from 2260 undergraduate and graduate subjects with more than 100 of the most popular courses containing audio or video lectures. The website garners 175 million visits by students, self learners and educators from around the world. So quite a few people are taking advantage of it already and today I’d like to introduce to you its great potential.

Since it caters to a wide variety of users, the course materials afford great flexibility in how they’re used. You don’t have to register to have access to the resources. MIT OCW’s Creative Commons license gives you free rein to adapt and share the material provided yyou give appropriate attribution and use it for non-commercial purposes only.

One of the best bloggers in the field of learning and productivity undertook a project in which he learned the entire 4-year MIT curriculum in just 12 months using MIT OCW. You can read more about it here: http://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/myprojects/mit-challenge-2/.

That is one way to use this platform. You can create your own personalised curriculum incorporating the hundreds of free course materials available.

Another way to make use of OpenCourseWare is to supplement your own education. Whether you are in high school or college and beyond, MIT’s fantastic resources will help you make progress with your own studies.

Of course, not everyone who uses online resources has a fully formed plan in mind. Some of us just want to learn because we find the subject interesting.  Since most of the courses are about science and technology, if you’re a science nerd you’ll fall in love with the website.

You can view the computer science related courses from Scott’s blog. Webpage above.

In time, I will publish a post with the sequence of mathematics courses from MIT OCW.

For now, here are several interesting courses to satisfy your curiosity

Introduction to Bioengineering

Fundamentals of Biology

Introduction to Biology

Introduction to Psychology

Principles of Chemical Science

Comparative Media Studies

Principles of Microeconomics

Quantum Physics I

Energy Decisions, Markets and Policies

Exploring Black Holes and General Relativity

There are hundreds of courses available but not all of them have video lectures of assignment solutions. However all available courses have two components: instructional material such as audio / video lectures or lecture notes and some type of learning activity such as problem sets or exams.

For me, I’ve settled on a ‘best way’ to learn these challenging subjects. I go through the instructional material really quick to get an overview of sorts. And then I try to walk through the assignments. I get most of the questions wrong on first try but the solutions are enlightening as to what concepts I need to work on. Then I try explaining the concepts to myself taking the help of the course material or a textbook and I do that until I’ve mastered the concept.

Sure that’s not how most people use it but this method works for me. It just goes to show the great flexibility afforded by OCW.

Searching for useful courses on the MIT OpenCourseWare website is a piece of cake. You can search for courses by topic and by the available course features (video lectures, assessments, textbook etc) through this webpage: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/find-by-topic/

Clicking on a course name, you can check out the syllabus which will tell you about the material covered and any prerequisites for the course. Good luck on your self learning adventures!

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