Education Wants to Be Free


In 2001, MIT announced that it was going to put its course materials online. Class notes, videotapes of lectures, selected readings -- they'd all be free to anyone able to access them. Two years later, Wired is checking in to see how the program's been working out.

Here's the lede:

Lam Vi Quoc negotiates his scooter through Ho Chi Minh City's relentless stream of pedal traffic and hangs a right down a crowded alley. He climbs the steep wooden stairs of the tiny house he shares with nine family members, passing by his mother, who is stooped on the floor of the second level preparing lunch. He ascends another set of even steeper steps to the third level and settles on a stool at a small desk, pushing aside the rolled-up mat he sleeps on with one of his brothers. To the smell of a chicken roasting on a grill in the alley and the clang of the next-door neighbor's metalworking operation, Lam turns on his Pentium 4 PC, and soon the screen displays Lecture 2 of Laboratory in Software Engineering, a course taught each semester on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Here," he says, pointing at the screen. "This is where I got the idea to use decoupling as a way of integrating two programs."

Last year 50 classes were online. This year there will be 500. By 2006, the university plans to post about 2,000.