Sunday, December 10, 2006

Computer Science E-1, at HES

In addition to CyberOne, the Harvard Extension School had another course this Fall which generated a lot of buzz on the internet and which provides a great example of what OpenCourseWare at the Extension School could look like:

Computer Science E-1

This course, taught by David Malan, is a distance education course at HES, an introduction to Computer Science and the internet. Malan has made most of the course material available online (not just to enrolled distance education students) in the form of lectures, videos, a podcast, and online course materials like assignments and problem sets.

The course has been highly successful and was recently recognized by Wired magazine (click on the "story images" in the left column for the full story) in an article about college courses as podcasts, where they named it the "best podcast we found" and said that "if every undergrad watched this series, IT help desks would be out of business."

So, what does the success of this one course tell us about the viability of a more widespread OpenCourseWare project at the Extension School? Well, first, it shows that it is possible. Professor Malan was able to set it up, and having a centralized system would allow even less tech-savvy teachers to make their materials available. Second, it shows that there is a market and a desire for this material online. The podcast and lectures have been immensely popular. Third, it shows that the Extension School and Harvard as a whole can benefit from OpenCourseWare, through the great publicity. Finally, of course, it shows that this is a great and effective way to do what the Extension School is designed to do, make knowledge and education available to everyone!

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