Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The MIT OpenCourseWare: A free, popular, web-based publication of 2,389 MIT courses, getting over 2 million visits a month


The MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) is an initiative from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This program was announced on April 4, 2001. The program allows all of the educational materials from its undergraduate – and graduate-level courses to be put online, openly available to anyone, anywhere. As such, the MIT OpenCourseWare is actually a large-scale, web-based publication of MIT course materials.

You don't have to register for anything; you just go to the site and access the materials. There is no supervision.. You can explore whatever you want to learn whenever you want to learn it.  The initiative has inspired more than 250 other institutions to make their course materials available as open educational resources through the Open Education Consortium.

The MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in the teaching of  all of MIT's undergraduate and graduate courses available on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. MIT OCW receives an average of over 2 million web site visits per month from more than 215 countries and territories worldwide. To date, more than 220 million visitors have accessed the free MIT educational materials on the site or in translation.  Courses at the MIT OpenCourseWare are available freely in line with the MIT mission.

The mission of MIT is to advance students knowledge and educate students in courses such as: science, technology, and other areas of studies that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. MIT seek to develop  each  member  of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

·         March 7, 2017:  MIT OCW welcomes over 220 million visitors; 
·         July 23, 2012:  MIT OpenCourseWare selected one of best free reference web sites for 2012 by American Library Association;
·         February 29, 2012:  MIT OpenCourseWare teams up with Flat World Knowledge to combine free texts and free course materials; 
·         August 25, 2010:  TIME Magazine selects MIT OpenCourseWare as one of the 50 best websites of 2010;
·         July 29, 2010: MIT OpenCourseWare was named by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) as a recipient of the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) for promoting exceptional online materials that are available free of charge to science educators;
·         December 3, 2008: OCW welcomes 50 million visitors;
·         2007: Virtually the entire MIT curriculum published online;
·         June 18, 2004: MIT received honors from three magazines, and several others in the MIT community were recognized for individual achievements, including physics professor, Walter Lewin, and math professor, Gilbert Strang who have course materials on MIT OCW and who have individually received more than 1 million visits;
·         2002: First MIT OCW site established with 50 courses on it;
·         2000: MIT proposed the OpenCourseWare;
·         1999: MIT considered how to use the internet to fulfill their mission.

MIT OCW was originally funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and MIT. Currently, MIT OCW is supported by MIT, corporate underwriting, major gifts, and donations from site visitors.  As of 2013, the annual cost of running MIT OCW was about $3.5 million. MIT's goal for the next decade is to increase their reach ten-fold and to secure funding for the expansion.

Site Statistics
MIT OCW is accessed by a broadly international population of educators and learners. MIT OpenCourseWare receives over 2 million visits each month. These visits come from all over the world, with more than half coming from countries outside of North America:

Educators  17%
Students  30%
Independent Learners  50%


Educators use resources …
To improve personal knowledge 31%
To find reference material for their students 15%
To learn new teaching methods 23%
To develop curriculum for their dept./school 8%
To incorporate OCW materials into a course 20%
Other 3%

Students use resources …
To enhance personal knowledge 46%
To plan a course of study 16%
To complement a current course 34%
Other 4%

Self-Learners use resources …
To explore areas outside professional field 40%
To keep current with devpts. In their field 17%
To review basic concepts in prof. field 18%
To complete a work-related project or task 4%
To prepare for future course of study 18%
Other 3%

Site Traffic Measure
February, 2017
Total Visits
Total unique visitors
MIT.EDU Visits
Highlights for High School Visits
OCW Scholar Visits
Page Views
ZIP Downloads

Highlights for High School
MIT+K12 Videos
OCW Educator
Teaching Excellence at MIT
MIT Crosslinks and OCW
MITx and Related OCW Courses
Open Education Consortium


As of February 2017, over 2,380 courses are available online. While a few of these were limited to chronological reading lists and discussion topics, a majority provided homework problems and exams (often with solutions) and lecture notes. Some courses also included interactive web demonstrations in Java, complete textbooks written by MIT professors, and streaming video lectures.

As of February 2017, 92 courses included complete video lectures. The videos were available in streaming mode, but could also be downloaded for viewing offline. All video and audio files were also available thru iTunes U and the Internet Archives.

Business (17 sub-topics)
Mathematics (11 sub-topics)
Energy (11 sub-topics)
Science (5 sub-topics)
Engineering (13 sub-topics)
Social Science (12 sub-topics)
Fine Arts (7 sub-topics)
Society (10 sub-topics)
Health and Medicine (21 sub-topics)
Teaching and Education (4 sub-topics)
Humanities (6 sub-topics)

Aeronautics and Astronautics
Global Studies and Languages
 Health Sciences and Technology
 Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation
 Linguistics and Philosophy
 Biological Engineering
 Materials Science and Engineering
 Brain and Cognitive Sciences
 Chemical Engineering
 Mechanical Engineering
 Media Arts and Sciences
 Civil and Environmental Engineering
 Music and Theater Arts
 Comparative Media Studies
 Nuclear Science and Engineering
 Comparative Media Studies/Writing
 Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
 Science, Technology, and Society
 Sloan School of Management
 Edgerton Center (Energy)
 Supplemental Resources
 Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
 Urban Studies and Planning
 Engineering Systems Division
 Writing and Humanistic Studies
 Experimental Study Group

Find by Topic
New Courses
Find by Course Number
Most Visited Courses
Find by Department
OCW Scholar Courses
Instructional Approach
This Course at MIT
Teaching Materials
Supplemental Resources
Audio/Video Courses
Translated Courses
Courses with Subtitles
View All Courses
Online Textbooks

As mentioned, courses at the MIT OpenCourseWare are available at no cost.  To find out more about this opportunity or to explore the available courses and identify one that you might want to try out, please click here.

Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi

Thursday, March 9, 2017

UDACITY – A 1.6 million-user platform for accessing free & high-quality online courses in computer science, programming, and other subject areas


Udacity is the outgrowth of free computer science classes offered in 2011 through Stanford University (Wikipedia, 2017). In a Stanford University experiment, Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig offered their "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" course online to anyone interested, at no charge and over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled.  Not much later, Udacity was born.

With headquarters in Mountain View, California, Udacity is a for-profit educational organization, founded by Sebastian Thrun – with David Stavens, and Mike Sokolsky. The program offers massive open online courses (MOOCs).  Udacity has partnered with companies such as:  AT&T, Cloudera, Salesforce, Autodesk,  Google, Hack Reactor (a popular and prestigious coding bootcamp), Facebook, and MongoDB. Udacity won’t disclose their earnings. However, Rao (2016), reported that one source previously pegged the company’s annual revenue to be around $24 million, and that Udacity has recently become one of technology's newest unicorns—meaning they recently achieved a value of $1 billion.


The Udacity mission is to bring accessible, affordable, engaging, and highly effective higher education to the world. They believe that higher education is a basic human right, and they seek to empower their students to advance their education and careers. The program accomplishes their mission by teaching students skills that industry employers are looking for, at a fraction of the cost of traditional schools.


Sebastian Thrun, (the Stanford professor and Google roboticist) who founded Udacity has been referred to as “the Godfather of free online education.”  In November 2012, he won the Smithsonian American Ingenuity in Education Award for his work with Udacity.  His work has a romantic, populist flair and has also been referred to as “arguably the most famous scientist in the world.”  He designed and built robots around human problems, and gave them accessible names. Rhino, part of his thesis project at the University of Bonn, provided guided tours at the local museum. During a stint at Carnegie Mellon University, Thrun developed Pearl, a Jetsons-like “nursebot” with a human-looking face, to assist in elder-care facilities. His greatest achievement was Stanley, the autonomous car that won Stanford a $2 million Defense Department prize and won Thrun the notice of Google cofounder Larry Page.

Udacity's founder Sebastian Thrun stepped down as chief executive officer in April 2016. This  made way for Vishal Makhijani, the company's chief operating officer and a Yahoo executive, to become Udacity's new CEO (Rao, 2016).  Thrun remains as President and Chairman of Udacity and continues to work full-time at Udacity, focusing on innovation.


Thrun initially founded Udacity in 2012 by putting free college courses online to make learning more accessible. However, the college partnerships failed, and the company detoured into offering courses, partnering with Facebook and Google, as well as certifications for workers who want to beef up their technical skills or learn new ones.

“Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, Godfather of free online education, changes course”  Max Chafkin (2013).  This article describes Thrun’s change in approach towards mass education as a result of  the continually failing rates of MOOCs students.  Thrun announced that Udacity, which originally focused on offering university-style courses, had a "lousy product" and that the service was pivoting to focus more on vocational courses for professionals and "nanodegrees."


In 2014, Udacity introduced  “Nanodegree,” a paid intensive certification course training people for technical jobs such as software development.  Udacity has expanded this program from the U.S. to India and China.  The "Nanodegree" program was designed to teach programming skills needed to qualify for an entry-level IT position at AT&T.  A Nanodegree, provided by Udacity and AT&T among other partners, is an online certification that you can earn in 6-12 months (10-20 hours/week) for $200/month (Rauch, 2014; Morell, 2015).

Nanodegrees seem to be targeted towards new generations of young programmers who are about to step into college or feel disenfranchised with their college/post-college experience and disappointed with its ROI (return on investment). Furthermore, Udacity also wants students who are already working to earn certificates so they will be happier in their careers.

Since Nanodegrees are produced in collaboration with tech companies, students are expected to be up to date on terms of technologies used.  In 2014 several hundred computer science students around the world began taking classes for an online master’s degree program being jointly offered by Udacity and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Georgia Tech professors taught the courses and handled admissions and accreditation, and students received a Georgia Tech diploma. Udacity hosted the course material, while expenses were covered by AT&T.


Each course consists of  video lectures with closed captioning, integrated quizzes (to help students understand concepts and reinforce ideas), as well as follow-up homework which promote a "learn by doing" model. Programming classes use the Python language; programming assignments are graded using an automated grading programs on the Udacity servers.


Udacity has 1.6 million users. Founded in June 2011, by the summer of 2012, Udacity had students in 203 countries - with the greatest number in the United States (42 percent), India (7 percent), Britain (5 percent), and Germany (4 percent).  Udacity students range from 13-year-olds to 80-year-olds. Advanced 13-year-olds are able to complete multiple, higher-level computer science courses.


Featured Programs / Subject Areas

Artificial Intelligence
Building Websites
Data Science
Develop for Mobile
Machine Learning
Develop for Virtual Reality
Self-driving Car Technology
Predictive Analytics
Programming Basics

Courses (173)

Programming (100)
Art & Design (6)
Computer Science (43)
Science (2)
Mathematics (10)
Social Science (1)
Business & Management (10)
Education & Teaching (1)


In 2014, the Georgia Institute of Technology launched the first "massive online open degree" program (MOOD)  in computer science by partnering with Udacity and AT&T - providing a master's degree upon completion.  Fees were substantial–$6,600 for the equivalent of a three-semester course of study–but still less than one-third of what an in-state student would pay at Georgia Tech, and one-seventh of the tuition charged to an out-of-state student.


Udacity students and graduates have shared their views and experiences on Quora (2017). Quora program  allows the student to speak of various topics including “how to access Udacity courses for free:” Students have to pay to take part in a Nanodegree, however,  anyone  can do all the supporting courses at no charge.  A Nanodegree requires the completion of a number of projects (e.g., eight projects for the Android Nanodegree), and for each project, students have to do a number of “Supporting Courses”.All of these courses can be accessed and studied for free.  Thus the material (video lessons and quizzes) for the courses associated with Nanodegree programs are always free. To find out more, go to a given Nanodegree curriculum page (for instance  Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree), scroll down to the "Nanodegree structure" section, click on the courses listed by "Prepare for this project with" and access the free course material from there.

Udacity courses are free, regardless of whether they are part of the Nanodegree curriculum or not! The courses are open to anyone and begin studies at any time.  The challenge is students need instruction (which is not straightforward) to access these materials for free.  First of all, you will need an account. Sign up is very simple by entering an email address and setting a password you have created your account.  The next step is to go through the Nanodegrees and check out their curriculum/syllabus.  The Nanodegrees are simply a combination of smaller courses. You can search for them individually in the catalog of courses.

You can’t access the Nanodegree program as is, but you can access the smaller courses for free here: All Courses and Nanodegree Programs | Udacity .  So, by completing the smaller courses  in a way, you would have completed the Nanodegree. You may then take an overview of the that Nanodegree program from Udacity’sGitHub and complete the projects on your own. You may also compare your project to those of students who have completed that Nanodegree because their projects are available on GitHub.


You may audit one or more Udacity course(s) for free and then do a nanodegree if you are happy with your Udacity experience.  If cost is an issue, just continue auditing courses for free while expanding your technical capability thereby making yourself eligible for higher-level training or a better jobs. 

To explore what Udacity has to offer, please click here.  Check out the “REFERENCES” below to explore the articles referred to in this posting.


Chafkin, Max. 2017. Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, Godfather Of Free Online Education, Changes Course. Available online at:  Retrieved March 1, 2017.

Morell, Chris. 2015. NANODEGREE PROGRAMS - Udacity Nanodegree Reviews: Your Questions Answered. Available online at: .   Retrieved March 1, 2017.

Quora, 2017. How can I access Udacity’s nanodegree courses for free.  Available online at: . Retrieved March 1, 2017.

Rao, Leena. 2016. Sebastian Thrun Steps Down As Udacity’s CEO. Available online at:  .  Retrieved March 1, 2017.

Rauch, Joseph. 2014. FAQ: What is a Udacity Nanodegree? Hype or Hope?

Wikipedia, 2017. Udacity.  Available online at: . Retrieved March 1, 2017.

Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Barriers to Overcome

The way we learn is changing.  From the beginning of civilization, children learned from copying their parents, siblings, and friends. In time they began watching and listening to someone more knowledgeable, called a teacher.  Ultimately becoming more formal, “schools” were formed where students gathered around scholars to study and learn.  This is how it has been for the last 3 to 5 thousand years, depending on  what kind of civilization we are looking at.

Watching and listening to a teacher in a classroom live, was the way of education for my grandparents, my parents, and for me.  This means of learning is still  practiced today for the majority of pupils going to school in almost any place in the world.  This practise seemed to be the only way knowledge could be imparted, particularly to masses of students, especially if they want to have proof of completing their education, like a graduation certificate or a degree.

However, things are different now.  No longer is education taking place in a classroom with a live teacher. For some time now, the printed word is used to transmit knowledge, as are movies, and computers.  Thus, the classroom can be replaced with any location suitable for distance learning, such as your home, the library, or your friend’s study.  This allows the teacher to come to the house or to the shady spot under the apple tree where the student has opened his/her laptop.

THAT means education has now taken on a totally different way of learning.  No longer do you see live actors talking, singing, acting out the lesson, but a book presenting its pages and/or a computer giving the lectures.  Now there is no more  back and forth talking between pupil and teacher.  There is no more bell when the class begins and ends.  There is no more glancing at your neighbor to make sure you understand the lesson, or how you are keeping up with the rest of the crowd.

It’s a totally new experience, learning in a totally new way.  For once, it requires a lot more motivation to get involved now, and paying a lot more attention while actually participating.

A major barrier in many places and for many people, which needs to be overcome in order to participate in an advanced civilization’s education is motivation.  Motivation and persistent attention are the principal requirements that need to be met before any modern learning can take place.  But how?

Well, the first, and probably best, way is to have parents teach their children, from the earliest possible age on. The teaching needs to be all about motivation, concentration, and stick-to-it-iveness for whatever is ahead in the child's life. This is done, mostly by example and friendly guidance.  Unfortunately, there are large numbers of parents who may happen to parent all right, but have no idea and are totally unmotivated themselves. These parents are often ignorant, and couldn’t care less about sticking to any worthwhile pursuit at any time, or are striving toward entirely unrelated objectives.

If this scenario is the case, then the second best group of mentors and encouragers of the youngsters are other family members who do have the knowledge and are able to serve as good examples. Others, such as friends, church members and other organizational group members, official teachers, and eventually the local government can be mentors. I do feel very strongly that it is also the government’s responsibility (putting our tax dollar to work for the good of the constituents) to provide this urgently needed educational effort to help its younger citizens to become diligent learners. This mentality can assist with having a well educated society that will be healthier, happier, and contribute more to the world.

Other barriers to overcome are:

People not having computers, no access to computers, no knowledge of how to operate a computer.

No Wi-Fi or wire connection to the Internet.  It surprises me that there are many places still in the U.S.A., and countless places in third world countries, remote islands, and other less developed places that do not have this service.  Yet, paradoxically, these are precisely the locations which have far more need for modern means of learning than the rest of the civilized world.

In all these cases, I think it should be made a higher priority for their respective governments to fill this need, although, as my research shows, none of them do.  Maybe the charitable organizations from the wealthier part of the civilized world might be able to step in, at least in some situations, and help.  For example, The Straube Foundation, is doing this already, although it is on a very minuscule level.  However, if more organizations would do so, every little bit helps, plus it provides a good example for others to follow.

So, if you can, seek out and help a youngster (or oldster, if that’s the one who needs it) to become enabled, fit and proficient for learning via the Internet!

Thank you very much!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

iTunes U – An Apple Platform to access thousands of free online courses


iTunes U has been part of the iTunes Store for nearly ten years, and it remains one of the unsung heroes of Apple’s content.

According to Wikipedia (2017):
·         The iTunes Store, a software-based, online digital media store, operated by Apple Inc., opened on April 28, 2003, and has been the largest music vendor in the United States since April 2008. It is also the largest music vendor in the world since February 2010;
·         iTunes Store offers over 35 - 40 million songs, 2.2 million apps, 25,000 TV shows, and 65,000 films as of January, 2017;
·         The iTunes Store revenue in 2011s first quarter totaled nearly $1.4 billion; By May 28, 2014, the store had sold 35 billion songs worldwide;
·         As of June 2013, the iTunes Store possessed 575 million active user accounts. The iTune Store also served over 315 million mobile devices, including Apple Watches, iPods, iPhones, Apple TV, and iPads;
·         iTunes Store for iOS:  The iTunes Store allows users to purchase and download items directly to portable Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and iPod Touch;
·         Apple offers three applications, each of which provides access to certain types of content:
o   The App Store application sells apps for iOS, and also provides updates for these apps;
o   The iTunes Store app sells music and videos; and
o   The iBooks app sells ebooks;
·         Other, free content available from the iTunes Store can be accessed from two other iOS apps:
o   The Podcast apps allow users to download, subscribe and sync podcasts; and
o   The iTunes U app provides access to educational material.


iTunes U is a dynamic, easy-to-use educational library. It is designed by Apple to distribute digital materials to students in an efficient and effective way. It features hundreds of subjects, which cater to nearly every age. ITunes U creates content from educational institutions around the world. It enables interested students to access free courses from Harvard, MIT, Oxford, La Sorbonne and other leading institutions.

Rasmus (2014) referred to iTunes U as a fantastic educational resource but probably one of the most underrated Apple platforms available. It is also pointed out that those not using iTunes U are not getting the most out of their Apple experience.

According to McElhearn (2016), iTunes U offers courses on pretty much anything you’d find in a college course catalog, and courses are offered in more than a dozen languages. There are also sections that offer courses for primary and secondary school students, along with resources that teachers can use in the classroom. It would be safe to say that anyone who wants to learn will find something to suit them on iTunes U.
iTunes U content comes in several types: audio and video lectures, PDFs or ePub files.

The iTunes U app gives students access to complete courses from leading universities and other schools. It also offers the world’s largest digital catalogue of free education content — right on the student's iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch (iPad in Education (2017).  Millions of people across the globe visit iTunes U every day using a Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Leveraging the familiar interface of the iTunes Store, iTunes U offers over 500,000 audio, video, PDF, and ePub resources as well as full courses that cover every imaginable topic. This extraordinary content comes from hundreds of colleges and universities, K–12 school districts, and respected museums, libraries, and public broadcasting stations.

Students are not currently able to receive a degree from iTunes U. However, many universities use iTunes U to distribute content for courses that offer degrees. Giving the student the ability to audit thousands of courses for free is invaluable. iTunes U provides content on just about every subject imaginable, and those interested in learning should take advantage of iTunes U to broaden their horizons.


Rasmus (2014) and McElhearn (2016), among others, have explained how to access iTunes U to download courses.  To access iTunes U, the user is to open up the iTunes app on your Mac or PC and click on "iTunes Store" on the left-hand side. Select the iTunes U button on the top right side of your iTunes Store toolbar (it's the tab to the right of Podcasts) and you're in. Here you’ll find a wealth of lectures that you can browse by university affiliation, subject, most downloaded, or noteworthy courses.

For listening on the go, content can be downloaded from the iTunes U app, using your  Mac, PC,  iPhone or iPad. A user may download a course onto your mobile device by download the iTunes U app from the App Store. Just open iTunes U app, click on "Catalog" located on the upper right-hand corner, find a series you're interested in, and click "Subscribe". The content is then delivered directly to you, whether the course is a series of lectures, videos, PDFs, or an entire book.

After downloading the course content, you are given the choice to learn the subject matter at your own pace. You may also decide whether to use your computer, iPad or iPhone. The student has the option to set the pace speed on your mobile device. You may slow down a lecture to half speed (perfect for diligent note-takers) or speed up the lecture to double-time (perfect for those trying to fit an in-depth French Revolution lecture into a 20-minute commute) - just press the 1x button on the lower right-hand side of your screen to scroll through the options.


iTunes U offers students free courses created and taught by instructors from leading universities and other institutions; the student can view all assignments and updates from the instructor in one place, and check off assignments as they complete them; take notes and highlight text in iBooks and see them consolidated for easy reviewing in the iTunes U app; access course materials,( including audio, video, books, documents & presentations, and apps)and  access new iBooks textbooks for iPad.

One of the biggest advantages to using iTunes U is its availability on the iPhone and iPad – anyone can access iTunes U content on any iOS device using the iTunes U app.

Though iTunes U lacks the interactive features of Khan Academy, it makes up for it with portability, sheer depth of information available, and the fact that no real prior knowledge is needed. Khan Academy is more reliable as a supplement to in-class learning than iTunes U is. Need to re-learn molecular orbit theory before your organic chemistry exam? Try Khan Academy. Want to learn about something more random, like the best way to report UK news to the German or French news media from a Reuters/Oxford-grade journalist? A quick search in the iTunes U catalogue will take care of that for you.

Unfortunately, no course credit is available from the iTunes U affiliate universities. However, the fact that the content is free is rather remarkable.

Another issue with iTunes U is the content is not easily shared. While sharing a TED Talk with your Facebook friends is easy; sharing an iTunes U lecture with the same friends is difficult.


One can only complain so much about a platform that gives away Ivy League courses for free. Despite minor issues, iTunes U is undoubtedly a great and underused resource in the Apple world. Furthermore, iTunes U had some upgrades and more upgrades are expected in the future.

For more details please click here or check out the references (see below) consulted for this posting.


·         iPad in Education (2017). Create & innovate with iTunes U. Available online at:   Retrieved February 19, 2017.
·         McElhearn, Kirk (2016). iTunes U: Free education to make you smarter. Available online at:   Retrieved February 19, 2017.
·         Rasmus, Grace (2014). What is iTunes U? Everything you need to know about iTunes U, and how to get the most out of it. Available online at:   Retrieved February 19, 2017.
·         Wikipedia (2017). iTunes Store. Available online at   Retrieved February 19, 2017.

Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi