Giving to Yale

Hewlett Foundation Supports Online Debut of Free Courses

Professor Langdon Hammer, lecturing to his Modern Poetry class, is taped for Open Yale Courses. With generous support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Yale University recently launched Open Yale Courses, an innovative project offering some of Yale’s most popular courses online and free of charge.

The initiative gives learners from around the world access to the full content of selected college-level courses in various formats, including downloadable and streaming video, audio, and searchable transcripts of each lecture. Syllabi, reading assignments, problem sets, and other materials accompany the courses.

The seven courses in the sciences, arts, and humanities—which were recorded live as they were presented in the classroom to Yale students—will be augmented with approximately thirty additional Yale courses over the next several years.

“Information technology allows the knowledge and passion of leading Yale faculty to reach everyone who wishes to explore these subjects,” said Yale President Richard C. Levin. “We hope students, teachers, and anyone with an interest in these topics, no matter where they live or what they do, will take full advantage of these free and easily accessed courses.”

Hewlett Foundation President Paul Brest said that the availability of the Yale courses has significance far beyond the University.

“Making the talents of Yale’s faculty available for free on the Internet is an important step toward the Hewlett Foundation’s goal of providing access to knowledge and educational opportunities throughout the world,” Brest said. “Truly, all the world is becoming a classroom.”

Diana E.E. Kleiner, the Dunham Professor of the History of Art and Classics and the director of the project, noted that the full content of all the courses is now readily available online and may be accessed at the users’ convenience. Available courses include:

  • Astronomy 160: Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics, with Professor Charles Bailyn
  • English 310: Modern Poetry, with Professor Langdon Hammer
  • Philosophy 176: Death, with Professor Shelly Kagan
  • Physics 200: Fundamentals of Physics, with Professor Ramamurti Shankar
  • Political Science 114: Introduction to Political Philosophy, with Professor Steven Smith
  • Psychology 110: Introduction to Psychology, with Professor Paul Bloom
  • Religious Studies 145: Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), with Professor Christine Hayes

“We wanted everyone to be able to see and hear each lecture as if they were sitting in the classroom,” Kleiner said. “It’s exciting to make these thought-provoking courses available so broadly for free. While education is best built upon direct interactions between teachers and students, Yale believes that leading universities have much to contribute to making educational resources accessible to a wider audience. We hope this ongoing project will benefit countless people around the world.”

Kleiner said the courses reflect the broad liberal arts education provided by Yale College, which encourages critical thinking, intellectual exploration, and creativity. She said Yale plans for future Open Yale Courses to include music and the arts.

To encourage the widest possible use of the courses, the agreement that covers most of the lectures and other course material on Open Yale Courses is a Creative Commons’ Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license. This license permits the free use or repurposing of the Open Yale Courses material by others. Users may download and redistribute the Open Yale Courses material, as well as remix and build upon the content to produce new lectures or other educational tools. Commercial use of the Open Yale Courses material is prohibited.

The Open Yale Courses project is produced and supported by the Yale Center for Media and Instructional Innovation (CMI2), which promotes the innovative use of technology to enhance learning at Yale and beyond.

(January 1, 2008)