The Impact of Open Courseware– MIT’s Kitchen Chemistry course

Posted: December 8, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I was excited this week to have an opportunity to explore open courseware (OCW).  As explained by Simonson et al. ( 2012), open courseware is “the publication of on the Web of course materials developed by higher education institutions and shared with others” (p. 141).  The Open Courseware Consortium indicates that OCW is free to users and offers a more specific definition, stating that “OpenCourseWare is the name given to open educational resources that are presented in a course format, often including course planning materials, such as syllabi and course calendars, along with thematic content, such as textbooks, lectures, presentations, notes and simulations” (“What is OpenCourseWare?”, n. d.).  According to MIT School of Engineering Professor, Dick K. P. Yue, “The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone” (“About OCW”, 2001-2013).  My excitement about OCW is based upon the opportunity to have access information in a course format that I can study at will and at my own pace.  The course I chose to examine as an example of OCW is MIT’s course titled, Kitchen Chemistry (MIT, n. d.), which was originally taught in the spring of 2009. 

In this self-paced format, OCW courses are presented to a large degree within the context of Charles Wedemeyer’s, and Michael Moore’s respective theories of independent study (Simonson et al., 2012), with a significant difference being that there is typically no instructor with whom the student can communicate.  As a result of the lack of access to an instructor, the second part of Moore’s theory which is a measurement of the degree of student autonomy based on the gap between student and teacher (transactional distance), becomes a moot point.  Since OCW is not typically associated with credit earned or certificates issued, the student is simply self-directed in accessing and consuming course materials, and completing assignments (which are not submitted for grading).  .

            My excitement in the beginning to explore the offerings of a free course related to the science of cooking quickly turned to disappointment as I perused the site and discovered that while there were some course materials available in the form of the syllabus, readings, assignments, and related resources, there were no lectures, lecture notes, or course presentations!  The textbook was not provided but was available for purchase through a link and assignments consisted of a list of the recipes used for each week.  Kitchen Chemistry was not so much a course, but rather a skeleton of the original, containing no actual content.  In addition, while there may have been some learner analysis performed in the instructional design of the live course, there is certainly no learner analysis done for the distance learning version.  MIT has simply made elements of the course available for interested individuals however incomplete the offering may be.



About OCW. (2001-2013). Retrieved from

MIT. (n. d.). Kitchen Chemistry [Web course]. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson

What is opencourseware? (n. d.). Retrieved from


  1. P.S. Just noticed that you’re studying instructional design. That’s my field of work! There’s a bit more info on my About page:

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Craig! Thank you for connecting! I love the appearance of your blog…very clean and easy on the eyes. I look forward to checking the next link you provided as well as other posts on your site!

  2. How disappointing that the content was missing!

    A few months ago I did an online course in public-speaking that was very useful, and it looks like the content’s still there if you’re interested. It mostly consisted of video lectures, plus some peer reviews of each others’ talks. I found it fun, but fairly demanding.

    I wrote about it here, and I’d be delighted if you’d like to leave a comment:

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