Starting a Movement

For some reason, when I read this article on MIT’s OpenCourseWare I thought of Arlo Guthries’ song, “Alice’s Restaurant”:

Publicizing all of MIT’s course materials on the Web is only half our mission,” admits MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) program director Anne Margulies. “The other half is to do it in a way that enables others to follow in our footsteps. If we’re the only ones publishing all our course materials, we will have failed. Our ultimate goal is to start an open knowledge movement that will put a vast amount of educational material on the Web—not just MIT materials.”

Aha! So giving away priceless educational resources isn’t all they’re after—those crafty professors and administrators at MIT are out to start a movement!

Okay, so it doesn’t sound like such a devious plot after all, but Margulies says she’s used to having the OCW idea greeted with suspicion.

“I go through the whole story, and people go, ‘Okay, I get that, but why is MIT really doing this?’” she laughs. “It truly is intellectual philanthropy.”

Somehow, I like the sound of this better than the “business models” proposed by some of the department heads I spoke to last week. It seems to me that when people like the University of California and MIT start taking an academic commons seriously, those who don’t will end up out in the cold with their insistence on a “pay to know” model. But as Guthrie’s song goes, it takes three to make a movement. Two is good� three would be better!