Free online courses, crowdsourcing, and big data are transforming the university from a gatekeeper to a public resource.
In 2001, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced it was going to put the university’s entire body of course materials online, for free. That meant syllabuses, as well as problem sets and exams—and their solutions. There were even going to be some video lectures online. In 2002, the MIT OpenCourseWare pilot project debuted with 32 courses. Today, according to MIT, 125 million visitors access material from 2,150 classes, including the very popular “Introduction to Computer Science and Programming,” which helps students feel confident about “writing small programs that allow them to accomplish useful goals.”