YouTube Changes Higher Education: Will It Also Change Corporate Learning?

» Posted by Jeanne Meister  » Posted on 01.09.08

YouTube has become an important teaching tool. In fact University of California at Berkeley follows MIT in posting entire course lectures on the Web’s No.1 video-sharing site.

It all started in 2001, when a number of high profile web-based educational projects were “exploring new models of learning.” These higher education experiments included NYU Online, Fathom, Virtual Temple and MIT Open Courseware. Today, only MIT Open Courseware has survived. In fact, one could say it has flourished and in the process it has changed higher education forever, encouraging other universities, like UC Berkeley to experiment with new ways of sharing knowledge in an open forum.

MIT Open CourseWare offers course materials from MIT classes on the Web. The original plan, as approved by MIT in 2001, was to share syllabi and other textual information, such as articles and exam questions. But today the site includes some combination of videos, podcasts and animations for all 1,800 MIT courses, as well as translations of course materials in Chinese, Portguese, Spanish, and Thai by another 160 universities that have joined forces to form the MIT Open Courseware Consortium.

The video below features an event celebrating MIT’s decision to put materials from all of its 1,800 courses online for free. The event, held recently at MIT, was hosted by MIT President Susan Hockfield and included a talk by author and New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman (who of course wrote the hugely influential book The World is Flat).

One of the more interesting aspects of this project has been the discovery of who exactly is accessing MIT Open CourseWare. While originally designed for faculty and students around the world to advance their knowledge in science and technology, it is now accessed mostly by “self-learners,” meaning primarily those working in corporate and government organizations around the world. (This group accounts for more 50% of the 1.6 million downloads per month.) These self-learners are using the MIT Open Courseware site for refreshing their knowledge in a range of subjects, including chemistry, physics, computer science and search engine technology.

This level of interest has motivated other universities to also offer their course materials free. UC Berkeley, for example, has made over 300 hours of course lectures available free on YouTube.

The topics of study posted by UC Berkeley include chemistry, physics, biology and even a video lecture (below) on search-engine technology given in 2005 by Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

So how will this free online content impact corporate learning departments? I think more and more we will see this free intellectual capital readily accessible on corporate university portals, and where appropriate free content may also be integrated into formal learning offerings for post-course references or into corporate mentoring/coaching situations. Perhaps the more challenging question is: Will corporate learning departments simply be customers of this open learning movement or will they join the movement by sharing some of their own non-proprietary intellectual content?

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  1. Jaki Levy, December 12, 2007:

    The MIT site is really strong. I also ended up visiting the Berkeley site on YouTube, and listened to a biology lecture. Fascinating stuff. I never thought I’d enjoy watching a biology lecture online - especially to a university I did not attend.

    These kind of materials really prove that online learning is not so far-fetched, and has really improved from the Phoenix University model. Thanks for posting these resources!

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