MIT Extends OpenCourseWare to High Schools


Five years after the initial pilot of MIT's OpenCourseWare initiative, it's now making its way into secondary education with the launch today of "Highlights for High School," which aims to bolster high school STEM education through free and open course materials, from complete curricula and syllabi to videos, lecture notes, and animations.

The OpenCourseWare initiative, announced in 2001 and piloted in 2002, is an effort of MIT to make courses freely available over the Web. The courses are not for the purpose of granting degrees or certificates; they're simply available for the benefit of the public. Five years after the initial pilot, which included 50 courses, the OpenCourseWare initiative now includes more than 1,800 courses.

A calculus course MIT's new Highlights for High School site, which includes lecture notes, samples from the textbook, sample problems, and exam questions

Highlights for High School--also known as OpenCourseWare Secondary Education, or OCW SE--is the first attempt on MIT's part to bring OCW to secondary education and the first step in a broader plan for secondary education that has been in development since 2006. The university estimated that, prior to the launch of Highlights for High School, some 10,000 teachers and 5,000 students were visiting MIT's OCW site each month, even though it had not been tailored specifically for high school use. Now, with the new site, there are thousands of resources designed just for high school teachers and students, including:

  • 15,000 lecture notes;
  • 1,800 syllabi;
  • 2,600 videos, audio clips, and animations taken from actual MIT courses;
  • 9,000 assignments; and
  • 900 assessments.

Through Highlights for High School, these have all been organized into a format that's designed to be more accessible for secondary education users and categorized to align with AP physics, biology, and calculus curricula.

A video demonstration of Newton's Laws of Motion on the Highlights for High School site

"As has been well documented, the [United States] needs to invest more in secondary education, particularly in STEM fields. MIT as a leading institution of science and technology has an obligation to help address the issue," said Thomas Magnanti, former dean of the School of Engineering at MIT, who chaired the committee that developed Highlights for High School.

While the focus of Highlights for High School is on science, technology, engineering, and math, a wide spectrum of other types of courses is also offered, including foreign languages, art, music, physical education, social sciences, and literature.

MIT presently has more than 40 K-12 outreach programs in place. In the future, its plans for secondary education might be expanded to include the creation of a "secondary education mentor corps" and the establishment of a teacher in residence program "to develop new open curricula with high school educators."

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About the author: David Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's online education technology publications, including THE Journal and Campus Technology. He can be reached at [email protected].

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at [email protected].