OpenCourseWare (OCW) is an educational initiative developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to make the core teaching materials for all MIT graduate and undergraduate classes available at no cost to Internet users around the world. OCW has been compared to the open source software movement because course materials on the OCW site will be "open and freely available worldwide for non-commercial purposes such as research and education, providing an extraordinary resource, free of charge, which others can adapt to their own needs". MIT President, Charles M. Vest, anticipates that within ten years, lecture notes, course outlines, reading lists and assignments for over 2000 MIT classes will be freely available on the OCW Web site.
President Vest has said that although OCW appears counter-intuitive in a market-driven world, it is particularly appropriate for a research university such as MIT where ideas move quickly from the laboratory to the classroom before there is even time to publish it in textbooks. OCW is not seen as a substitute for revenue-generating distance education (which requires interaction between teacher and student) but rather as a Web-based resource for teachers and learners around the globe. MIT anticipates that OCW will initially cost between $7.5 million and $10 million per year and is actively seeking funding partners.
MIT is known for its innovation in collaborative and distance learning projects, including long-distance education and collaborative research programs with the National University of Singapore and Cambridge University in England. MIT faculty members will retain intellectual property ownership of most materials posted on the OCW site, following MIT's current policy on textbook authorship. MIT faculty members have expressed the hope that OCW will encourage other universities to follow their initiative and join them in this "unprecedented step in challenging the privatization of knowledge".