Fri, Apr 06, 2007 - Page 9 News List

MIT education in Taiwan, minus the degree

MIT's radical move to make almost all of the institute's course materials available free online has benefited many and further fueled interest in paid enrollment


"I couldn't help thinking that if I could have gotten a decent electrical magnetism teacher, and had it gone better, maybe I could be working at a big company in Taiwan," he said.

Chu is proof that even translators can lose something in translation. He says he innocently adopted the English first name Lucifer as a teenager because of its poetic meaning in Latin, "light bearer."

Today, he says he travels Taiwan and China speaking on the opportunities from OpenCourseWare, using his royalty money to address an estimated total audience of 50,000, telling them to take advantage of "good people with the good will to share their knowledge."

The MIT OpenCourseWare Web site demands a lot from its visitors. One must decide what subject to study from a vast array, and then must show the determination of a true self-starter.

There is, for example, the graduate-level course "Topics in Philosophy of Language: Vagueness," offered in the fall of 2005.

The course promises it will "give people a sense of what `accounting for vagueness' is all about, why it's hard and why it's important."

There is a reading list, a syllabus and a sample paper.

While "Vagueness" is certainly on one end of the spectrum, there are relatively few courses that hold your hand.

A class on archery presents a litany of short clips showing how to hold a bow and arrow, and roughly 25 introductory courses have their lectures on videotape or audiotape.

Anne Margulies, executive director of OpenCourseWare, said that, "the best thing MIT can do is share what we have here to those who can't come here and hope others would do the same thing."

To that end, MIT has been promoting a consortium of schools to expand the materials available here and around the world.

Chu is unabashed in his enthusiasm of his nonprofit project, with the sly name OOPS, for "Opensource Opencourseware Prototype System," at And he cites a lesson that he says he learned from Isaac Asimov's Foundation science fiction series, a translation project that he has put on indefinite hold: "Knowledge can solve any problems -- people choose bad leaders mostly because they don't have enough knowledge."

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