The Impact of Open Source

Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek (2012) describe open courseware as “the publication on the Web of course materials developed by higher education institutions and shared with others” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 141). I had heard of the concept before, but had never really looked into it, since I am quite busy right now doing course work for my master’s degree. However, as part of an assignment for class this week though, I had the opportunity to look into open courseware, and was amazed at the number of courses available.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has a site called MIT Open Course, which “makes the materials used in the teaching of almost all of MIT’s subjects available on the Web, free of charge.”  (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2015). The content on the site is rather impressive, with courses ranging from real estate economics to neutron science and reactor physics.

After browsing the different courses available, I decided to look into Communicating with Mobile Technology, an undergraduate course. The prerequisites for this course are Introduction to Computer and Engineering Problem Solving (Civil and Environmental Engineering), and Elements of Software Construction (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science). Knowledge of JAVA is also recommended. According to the course introduction page, the content for this course is dated from the spring semester of 2011.

The main course page has a course description, plus links to the syllabus, course readings, lecture notes, assignments, and a calendar highlighting the topics and activities for the course.  All of these are elements that indicate the course was pre-planned. The sequencing of the course topics takes into consideration learning-related sequencing, for example, which “suggests ways of sequencing the content based on learner characteristics identified in the learner analysis” (Morrison, Ross, Kalman, & Kemp, 2013, p. 146). The syllabus also indicates that there are class activities related to the topic, which allows the learners to apply the knowledge from the lecture.

I would think that an MIT course would be pre-planned, but was it pre-planned and designed for the distance learning environment? The answer is no. For example, there are no active learning activities for the distance learner, and the course does not feature a variety of media. According to Simonson, et. al., “videos, visual presentations with accompanying audio, and other graphical representations of important topics are important to the well-designed course” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 182). So what was MIT thinking of putting a course like this online? You have to remember that MIT’s purpose was not to develop the course for distance learning. The course is made available because “with more than 2,200 courses available, OCW is delivering on the promise of open sharing of knowledge” (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2015).

In the getting started section of the MIT Open Courseware site, I did find a section that gives learners information on how they may connect with other learners through a site called, so the possibility to interact with other learners is there, but it is not part of or specific to any of their courses.

I know several people who love to learn, and the opportunities available to them due to the availability of open courseware appears to be growing. However, the one thing that I have to make sure they understand is that just because it is a course, and it is online, does not mean that it is a course that was designed and developed for the distance learning environment.



Edward Barrett, and Frank Bentley. 21W.789 Communicating with Mobile Technology, spring 2011. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 1 Apr, 2015). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2015). About MIT Open Courseware. Retrieved from

Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., Kalman, H. K., & Kemp, J. E. (2013). Designing effective instruction (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.


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