Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Make Virtual Education a Reality

Picture this: Before even entering the first lecture classes of a new semester, videos of the previous term’s lectures are all available online, along with the corresponding notes, problem sets, tests and solutions. Imagine that all this is available not only to college students, but to anyone with a high-speed Internet connection.

Universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Yale University have made this sort of thing a reality. All have created Web sites designed to host “open courseware,” in which they make materials from their classes available for public use. So, for example, anyone can download full videos of class lectures, syllabi and course materials for more than a dozen courses (in disciplines ranging from biomedical engineering to religious studies) from Yale’s open courseware site.

Judging by the success of open courseware at these universities, we believe it’s time Georgetown follows suit.

The curricular advantages are the most obvious – students could conceivably view lecture classes when and how they wanted to, catch up on missed material and review lectures to prepare for upcoming classes. Students would no longer have to meticulously scratch down notes while struggling to absorb the substance of lectures. During preregistration, students could sample different professors and make more informed choices.

Professors, on the other hand, would have the opportunity to put the tedious course materials online and use class for dynamic, face-to-face interaction with pupils.

Open courseware is also a way to make educational resources available to high school students, students from low-income backgrounds and anyone interested in learning. It is also an effective way of spreading Georgetown’s brand. Forget sending high-school juniors and seniors promotional pamphlets – open courseware could give applicants a taste of academic life at Georgetown in a novel way.

Implementing such a site at Georgetown would take some work and testing. According to Edward Maloney, a director at Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship, Georgetown will try a few small case studies in the next four months.

aloney noted, however, that a few important things need to happen in order for an open courseware project to be viable at Georgetown. Most importantly, there needs to be interest. At the moment, some professors may feel uncomfortable with an open courseware system and fear that students would have fewer incentives to attend lecture classes.

This concern, however, is insubstantial. Open courseware would force professors to make attendance more valuable and essential to success in their classes. It would enrich academic life, making professors’ and students’ time spent more worthwhile.

Without a doubt, open courseware would come at a price and necessitate a serious commitment by the university – one made already by a number of our peer institutions. Other universities have already used open courseware to seriously impact the conversation on education and technology in the United States and cyberspace. Georgetown is proud of the caliber of its academic courses; we urge the university to put them to the test on the Web.

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