OpenCourseWare has become more and more popular over the years, and quite a good number of universities make their lessons available in the form of online videos. However, compared to the total number of universities found in the US or rest of the world, the offerings are quite small. It seems to me that OpenCourseWare is a great way for schools to draw attention to themselves, so why is the percentage of schools offering OCW courses small?

2 Answers 2


Making an OpenCourseWare course isn't as simple as getting a team of kids with videocameras and uploading the course onto YouTube. There is a surprisingly high standard that the Professor and the University attempts to meet when they prepare a course to be deposited onto OpenCourseWare.

Stanford had built entire classrooms for the purpose of sharing online classes. Many of them have 3-4 cameras controlled by two operators while another is entirely responsible for the sound. Classes that require a balance between boardwork, slides, and discussion require a very well-trained team of videographers to recognize what they are supposed to be looking at without breaking the rhythm of the course and capturing the intent of the lecturer.

Ask any Professor how prepared their lectures are. Despite how absent-minded most professors seem, there is a large amount of practice and slidology behind each lecture. OCW adds a whole other layer to preparation since the course actually has to run on schedule and conclude with the course completed. The materials used require additional thought since OCW is limited to only a single camera. Look at some of Yale's early OTC courses; the professor will make references to a figure and the camera will be focused on his gestures rather than the actual information that they are trying to portray.

Lastly online courses are extremely expensive and don't truly make the return on investment as one would imagine. For instance, Utah State was forced to end their OpenCourseWare initiative.


Along with @bobthejoe's excellent answer, I've heard a few other reasons not to post certain types of courses online:

  • The notion of "supporting" the course. If you put your course online, are you obligated to answer questions, provide student support, etc.? I'm not talking about a contractual obligation as much as "If I put my lecture up there, how do I feel about 'Good luck with this material, you're on your own'?
  • Based on your answer to the above, you may have to actually redesign your course so it can "stand alone" as a series of videos, rather than how you prefer to teach face-to-face.
  • Some professors who run heavily student-interaction based classes are reluctant to post those lectures, because they want their students to be free to ask questions freely, make mistakes, etc. without those errors being archived on the internet for all time.

But I think the technical one is the biggest hurdle. OpenCourseWare needs to actually have production values in order to be worthwhile, as anyone whose remotely participated in a course where the lecture is in a room with poor acoustics and a single camera in the back will tell you.

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