online course materials

Related to a past post in which I mentioned Erik Wright’s podcasts of his lectures is this story in which an MIT physics professor, Walter Lewin, has become an online star because of his lectures. I found myself watching them and loving them. I also discovered that MIT puts a lot of course materials online. This, I think, is a wonderful idea. A way to make education more widely available. But I was sad to see that there was no sociology! We need to get with the times.

13 thoughts on “online course materials”

  1. I always thought they had a department. Why? Because when I was an undergrad I read a lot of Habermas. And here was the logic of my assumption:

    1.) Habermas was a sociologist (as I read him in my sociology classes).
    2.) Habermas was translated by Thomas McCarthy.
    3.) The books were published largely by MIT Press.
    4.) Therefore Thomas McCarthy must be at MIT.
    5.) He also must be in the sociology department (as Habermas was a sociologist).
    6.) Therefore MIT has a sociology department.

    Ah, my undergrad assumptions. Funny thing is, I forgot about this fairly silly logic but maintained the conclusion.


  2. FWIW, and not that I am Eric Wright, but I podcast my Intro to Soc lectures. It’s very helpful for the students who inevitably miss a class or two. It’s probably less helpful for the students who skip class all the time and figure they’ll catch up before the exam.


  3. It is so ridiculously easy, Mac or PC. I can write up a ‘how to’ post — so DIY. (and yes, you do post the files to a blog and link the feed to iTunes, so there you have it).


  4. Can I do it with my Mac? Can I stream it on Scatterplot?

    Here’s a very modest example of the sort of thing that’s easy to do. I did this for Brayden, who was looking for examples of data visualization for a class he was teaching. (Largish quicktime file.) Nice pictures start about a third of the way in.


  5. btw back to the original point, note that MIT puts information on line, but not its credential, for which you pay. The knowledge of a high-prestige college education is worth nothing if you don’t get the degree. So while agreeing that it is cool to look at all the courses (and I have found useful stuff surfing other people’s courses), it is worthwhile to think about the implications of not trying to restrict access to the knowledge itself, while access to the prestige degree remains highly restricted.


  6. olderwoman: I completely agree with your idea that college is often about prestige and not knowledge. In fact, in my own work that I recently finished up I argue that knowledge, unlike prestige, is not a particularly excludable resource. I mean, if the difference between elites (or folks who were mobile within a system of inequality) was simply “high” cultural knowledge, we could just teach Bach, Braque, and Browning to folks. “Knowing” in that sense isn’t that hard.

    What does make me wonder about prestige, however, is the oft-reported finding that it is not GOING to a high-status school that matters, it is getting in.


  7. FYI, there are indeed sociology courses on MIT’s OpenCourseWare initiative. You just need to search on the keyword ‘sociology’. But not many, partly because of some ambivalence regarding the wisdom of posting courses and partly because we indeed have no formal soc department. (MIT is also ‘missing’ psychology and several other humanities and social science departments found elsewhere. More generally, MIT is institutionally ambivalent about whether it is a full-fledged university or an ‘engineering school plus’, and its profile of departments reflects that ambivalence) Though as Jeremy points out, we do have a new phd program in economic sociology, which both reflects and reinforces a general rise in sociology’s profile in campus.


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