Thursday, October 25, 2007

Free MIT Education

That's not quite accurate, but "free MIT educational materials" is quite accurate. The MIT OpenCourseWare program (OCW) places course materials from a huge number of MIT courses on the web for free download by anyone. Some of the 1700 courses even include video lectures and demonstrations (e.g., Physics I: Classical Mechanics).

There are dozens of courses I would like to explore and study if I only had the time. I have heard that these materials are used all over the world to teach real college courses, while students, teachers, and enthusiasts everywhere use the materials to supplement their studies in various ways. It's really pretty amazing that all this stuff is out there.

One excellent improvement is that many (all?) of the courses have a direct download feature. This is a zip file that contains all the materials structured into folders that follow the on-line web structure for the course. Simply unzip with "use folder names" to preserve the folder structure, and you've got it all in convenient local form. Of particular interest to astronomy and space enthusiasts are the following courses I just downloaded to check out:

Introduction to Astronomy (12.402J, spring 2006)
The Solar System (12.400, spring 2006)
Hands-On Astronomy: Observing Stars and Planets (12.409, spring 2002)

Note that while there are many readings, worksheets, and other materials in PDF or XML form, there is still quite often a text or other book(s) required for assigned readings, and these are not (in general) on line.

P.S. In addition to the interesting comment added about other sources of free science learning materials, I stumbled on The Stingy Scholar who posted in March 2007 about some of the top MIT OCW courses. Your mileage may vary, of course, but at least there are reasons for the choices- see here and here ("turnkey" courses with no need for a textbook etc.). "Stingy" also discovered Orbiter.

12 comments:

Peteris Krumins said...

I would like to recommend to you my free science blog where I have been blogging about free video lectures on the internet for more than a year:

Free Science Online

Sincerely,
Peteris Krumins

zork said...

Hey, this is a little off-topic, but I saw your review on Amazon for the iPod Composite AV Cable (http://www.amazon.com/review/RKZ8LLQQ94K15/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm/).

The new update for the iPod software lets you turn on the TV Out feature--I've seen it done on my friend's iPod nano. Does this new update make the Eforcity iPod AV Composite Cable work with your Nano?

Also, what you said about Apple "knocking out 3rd party competitors and forcing you to buy a special Apple-made cable" is right on the money. That's exactly what I've been noticing them doing. They're basically making the same mistake they did with the personal computer 15 years ago! It's ridiculous.

Btw, nice blog you have here. Interesting stuff about NASA and everything--I'm surprised they only get half a percent of funding from the government! It seemed like it would be more!

Thanks! My email is zorkmail@gmail.com.

FlyingSinger said...

Yes, a bit off topic, but what the heck, it's just a blog.

The iPod software update does allow you to turn on the video output, but the non-Apple cable still does not work. I have to decided if watching iPod video on a TV is really important to me. I have a lot of DVD's and it's probably not that important - I just want to try it! But that's not worth $50.

zork said...

Yeah its a real pity how Apple overprices everything and tries to get complete market dominance on every accessory for their products.

And they dont even include a wall charger with the iPod. Ugh

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