Recently Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced a partnership to make some of their classes freely available online. The move, which attracted widespread attention in the United States, is the latest development in the open courses movement, which over the last few years has prompted growing numbers of universities to put videos and transcripts of entire lectures up on the Web, where anyone can have access to them at no cost.
MIT’s online courses already have a huge global following. In March, for example, some 120,000 people signed up for its circuits and electronics class. According to some observers, we are witnessing the emergence of a new model of postsecondary education that will change the way universities operate. “There’s a tsunami coming,” Stanford University president John Hennessy said recently. Online courses will never replace the crucial elements of a university education. But Canadian universities, which have been lagging in this area, must get into the game and reap the benefits that this new technology offers.