Last year I wrote about one of the nation’s most prestigious universities making its lectures and audio, video, and print course materials available for free to the public online. A lot of K-12 science teachers, it turns out, were interested in making use of those resources, which were offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In a related move, MIT has announced plans to make all of the scholarly articles published by its faculty available for free online. The university will make those papers accessible at no cost through an opensource, online system called DSpace, which was developed by the MIT libraries and Hewlett Packard in 2002. The decision was recently approved by the MIT faculty, though its members can opt out on a “paper-by-paper” basis, the university says.
Some universities have implemented similar policies for their individual schools, but MIT is the first to do so for its entire system, with the approval of the entire faculty, officials at the school say.
I’ll be curious to see whether MIT’s move to provide free scholarship will draw as much interest from K-12 educators as the free online lectures—a project known as the OpenCourseWare initiative—did. The visual element of university lectures from high-powered faculty appealed to high school science teachers and others. Will students and teachers be willing to wade through academic research papers? Actually, I think so. I could see teachers of science classes, for instance, asking students to dissect arguments from scholarly articles, as part of an independent research project, or simply to prepare them for the work they’ll encounter in college. What other uses do you see for K-12 teachers from MIT’s new open-access policy?
UPDATE: Here’s a link to the DSpace site where the free information will be housed. It currently contains about 20,000 theses and many other digital works from across the university, MIT officials told me. More will be added later, when the policy takes full effect.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.