University’s OpenCourseWare program recognized

Author: Gene Stowe

OpenCourseWare

Notre Dame OpenCourseWare (OCW) has received the Landmark Site Award for OpenCourseWare Excellence from the OpenCourseWare Consortium. The University, which launched the site in 2006, was a founding member of the consortium.

The site (ocw.nd.edu) makes available online more than 50 courses in 24 subject areas by Notre Dame professors, says Cathy Schulz, the OCW project coordinator in the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning. More than 300,000 people from around the world visited last year, an increase of nearly 50 percent from 2011.

“Basically, it’s putting course materials freely available on the Web for anyone to use non-commercially, with attribution. If they share the materials, they have to share under the same terms, a Creative Commons license,” Schulz says. “The courses are for the most part static content—these are the course materials that were used by a particular professor in a course during the semester.

“Professors turn over the materials to me, and I do the formatting of the content for the Web and to fit the same look and feel of all of our other courses. I do all of the intellectual property work, usually with images that they’re using. At the end, the faculty member reviews the course, and if they’re OK with publishing it, they sign off the IP release form. I push the button to publish and it’s available to everybody.”

Intellectual property restrictions by textbook publishers in some fields make courses difficult to publish on OpenCourseWare, but the list includes two engineering and two calculus courses as well as Arts and Letters courses.

A survey by consortium member MIT showed that 43 percent of visitors to its site were self-learners, 42 percent were students, 9 percent were educators and 6 percent were others, a likely breakdown of Notre Dame traffic, she says: “We’ve gotten some emails from educators that are using it in certain ways. Mostly it’s self-learners and students who are supplementing their course material.”

An undergraduate philosophy major at California State University in Los Angeles wrote to thank Schulz for the enrichment to his program. “With your website I was able to regain my passion of education,” he says. “The resources, the academic code of honor, the freshman bridge writing class, they are all really great sources to promote a lifelong habit of learning.”

A course by David O’Connor, “Ancient Wisdom and Modern Love,” has become so popular in China in the past year that a publisher recruited O’Connor to write a companion book on the subject that will be translated into Chinese by the end of this year.

A course by Karen Richman, “Creole Language and Culture,” received a spike in traffic after the Haiti earthquake, and Richman offered to assist visitors who were studying to help with relief efforts. That site won an OCW Consortium award for Texts and Illustrations last year. Chris Clark’s course, “Applied Multimedia Technology,” won a Text and Illustrations award in 2011.

“Notre Dame’s OpenCourseWare is an excellent example of the University living its mission by freely providing a resource to help improve the world,” says Kevin Barry, director of the Kaneb Center. “We are excited to have this work recognized as an exemplar in the open educational resource community.”