Open Yale adds 10 lectures

Open Yale Courses, a program that broadcasts select Yale lecture courses free of charge online, added 10 new classes to its offerings this month.

This batch of lectures, recorded and uploaded in their entirety, include the political science course “Moral Foundations of Politics,” a Spanish literature course called “Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote’” and “Fundamentals of Physics II,” among other science, social science and humanities classes. The newest uploads bring the total number of options on the Open Yale website to 35 classes across 20 departments, Program Director and Dunham Professor of the History of Art and Classics Diana Kleiner said.

“Yale has to be a leader in education, and consequently we have to find ways to push the envelope and do something really exciting,” Kleiner said. “This kind of creativity breeds other creativity.”

Kleiner said in an April 2010 interview that, as Yale increasingly focuses on spreading its resources far and wide and broadening its global impact, disseminating selected classes through the internet helps it achieve that goal. She said Monday that Open Yale brings Yale classes to people of all socioeconomic and educational backgrounds in countries across the world, many of whom would never have access to a Yale education otherwise.

About three million people have viewed the site since its launch in 2007, Kleiner said, adding that the courses have also been accessed approximately 15 million times through other well-known platforms including YouTube and iTunes. China, Germany and Brazil rank among the countries with the highest volume of visitor traffic.

Open Yale began with seven courses, and three subsequent additions have brought it to its current size. Kleiner said she is largely responsible for choosing which courses to include in the Open Yale program and often consults faculty and department chairs to make her decisions. Most professor have been receptive to participating in the program, but a few have declined over the years, she said.

Kleiner added that as the program has expanded, she has tried to include as many academic disciplines as possible while also building on the offerings in popular areas. For example, economic courses have attracted many views since the financial crisis of 2008, and Open Yale offers three courses in the field — including esteemed professor Robert Shiller’s “Financial Markets” course and the recently added “Financial Theory” with professor John Geanakoplos ’75. “Fundamentals of Physics II” with professor Ramamurti Shankar also relates to material already on the site, since “Fundamentals of Physics I” which was uploaded in 2007.

In addition, Kleiner said she bases her decisions in part on the professors of the courses.

“I’m really thinking about people who have a reputation as great undergraduate teachers … but also people of a strong pioneering spirit,” she said.

Spanish Professor Roberto González Echevarría, who teaches “Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote,’” said he thinks his lecture fits the program’s goals because “Don Quixote” is “possibly the most universal work of fiction ever written.”

Echevarría praised Open Yale for posting free content accessible to people across the globe.

“I think it speaks to the democratization that the Internet brings to the world,” he said.

Professor Keith Wrightson, whose course about British history “Politics, Religion, and Society under the Tudors and Stuarts” was included in the recent addition, said that he does not think online programs like Open Yale could ever adequately replicate the courses at Yale. Though some videos are accompanied by uploaded problem sets and exams from the course, those who watch online do not have the benefit of discussion sections, graded work or any kind of feedback.

“It’s a taste of what we do, rather than the full experience,” he said, adding that he still believes Open Yale plays an important role in the University’s public outreach.

Asked about the future of Open Yale, Kleiner said she is not able to speculate, but is confident that the program will continue to grow.

“If I could tell you precisely what Yale would be doing in five years, I would not be a good leader for this project,” she said. “This project has to evolve based on what is going on in the world.”

Open Yale Courses developed from a collaboration between Yale, Stanford and Oxford that began in 2001. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was the first of Yale’s peer schools to make educational materials available to the public online, founding its OpenCourseWare program in 1999.

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