28 January 2009

Academic Earth's Global Academy

One of the interesting applications of openness has been to education. The potential is plain: why re-invent the wheel when it comes to creating educational materials? It's not as if the facts change much from year to year. Moreover, when there are acknowledged experts within a field, it makes sense to draw on their work so that as many students as possible have access to top-flight teaching.

This has led to opencourseware, most famously at MIT, but increasingly, elsewhere. It takes two main forms: the texts of lectures, and recordings of the same. There's now a good body of such videos, enough to allow for the creation of a site dedicated entirely to them: Academic Earth.

Academic Earth is an organization founded with the goal of giving everyone on earth access to a world-class education.

As more and more high quality educational content becomes available online for free, we ask ourselves, what are the real barriers to achieving a world class education? At Academic Earth, we are working to identify these barriers and find innovative ways to use technology to increase the ease of learning.

We are building a user-friendly educational ecosystem that will give internet users around the world the ability to easily find, interact with, and learn from full video courses and lectures from the world’s leading scholars. Our goal is to bring the best content together in one place and create an environment that in which that content is remarkably easy to use and in which user contributions make existing content increasingly valuable.

Most of the videos are issued under a Creative Commons licence, with varying options in terms of what you can do with them.

Interestingly, Academic Earth is not, despite its name, an academic institution, but a start-up. As its founder, Richard Ludlow, told me:

I was originally starting this as a non-profit project (I previously started a non-profit public health organization and magazine), but switched to for-profit when I decided I would have an easier time raising the initial funds and recruiting people as a for-profit. In addition to the non-commercial content, we plan to host some videos we will commercialize, though the hope is to always keep everything free.

Certainly, an idea to, er, watch.

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