Making Open Courses Cheaper

Joshua Kim suggests some ways schools can continue offering courses to the public for free, but at reduced production costs (MIT’s extremely impressive offerings cost $10,000 to $15,000 per course).

Among other suggestions, he writes that schools should:

-“Facilitate and support course design where student project work is published to the Web.”

-“Partner with faculty and librarians to choose curricular materials that are available for free on the Web.”

-“Offer faculty the opportunity to easily publish their lecture recordings and classes to the Web if they choose.

For schools without the resources of MIT, these are all good suggestions. The problem is that anyone who looks at MIT’s model will be immediately spoiled. There is so much material there—1,900 courses worth—and, generally speaking, if you download all the materials for a given course, my sense is that it really is possible to learn a sizable chunk of what you would learn as an enrolled student (assuming you come in with the proper knowledge base, of course).

Kim’s suggestions are good and reasonable, and are more realistic for most universities, but there’s a piecemeal nature to them that might make for a less satisfying, comprehensive experience for dedicated online learners.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.