Edit: I just skimmed through some of the assignments and tests, and thought they are really good! If its been a few years since you took probability/statistics and feel you may be rusty when it comes to the integration and manipulations, give them a try! Homework 9 and 10, especially.
1. It's not in a proprietary format, the documents are PDF, the videos are AAC/H264. (I give up the h264 debate for today). Having to run iTunes to access the store is hardly "lock in". You might as well suggest turning on your computer is lock in.
2. This is on a CDN managed externally, Harvard don't need to invest in data centers.
3. Harvard don't have to pay for hosting/transmission/upkeep costs.
4. It enables harvard to provide something for free when normally they'd need to allocate budget. (And with that possibly charge for it.)
5. It's part of iTunes U, which is praised by universities across the globe for being an excellent enabler of education.
As posted in my other comment - I'm currently at the airport with my android, and no way to get this content. If it's not locked in, how do I access the data?
When I get home I'll have to install itunes. Which will add the apple updater + bonjour to my system as well.
I agree completely with your arguments regarding the benefits to Harvard. You're saying the same thing in three different ways though, Harvard has no costs hosting this content, which is true
The big enablers of education that have entered my field of view are MIT opencourseware, khan academy and the recent stanford courses. Perhaps iTunesU is among them, but I haven't seen this praise in my feeds.
If my pocket calculator can't access the internet, it doesn't make the internet 'lock-in'.
I don't think they shouldn't use iTunes U, that's fine, but I wish they made it available through alternate channels as well.
EDIT: Just found out this tool for accessing iTunes University on GNU/Linux: http://tunesviewer.sourceforge.net/
Imagine the cry if it was Windows only.
Thought, if you're interested there are some other pretty good intro probability courses online:
Math and Probability for Life Sciences (UCLA): http://www.academicearth.org/courses/math-and-proability-for...
The course doesn't cover as much material, but is still fairly detailed.
CS 798 Mathematical Foundations of Computer Networking, Fall 2008, University of Waterloo: http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/keshav/mediawiki-1.4.7/index...
This is a really great course that covers a broad set of topics, and is some what similar in structure to the Stat 110 course. Beyond the basics of probability, you also can learn a good deal about statistical inference and stochastic processes.
I tried it on my HTC Desire (Cyanogedmod 7.1.0) and the search function in the app turned up the Harvard statistics class immediately.
I hope those accounts below who lamented that they were on their Android tablets see this link.
The videos play fine under Totem movie player on current release of Linux Mint.
* in progresss *
Format : MPEG-4
Format profile : Base Media / Version 2
File size : 402 MiB
Duration : 46mn 28s
Overall bit rate : 1 209 Kbps
Format : AAC
Format profile : LC
Stream size : 62.6 MiB (16%)
Duration : 46mn 28s
Bit rate : 192 Kbps
I'm at the airport and would love to hear this, but only have my android tablet with me :(
Don't get me wrong, I think it is fantastic they do it and I applaud them - it is just really surprising and I am wondering about their motives, just my own (economic) curiosity.
No Ivy League school is suffering from profits and, as was posted, the degree from the school holds the most value. It also would help future potential students be aware of what is demanded of them in these academic institutions and potentially give them a chance to learn more should they choose to do so.
But my question was... why DID they do it?
Think of this: how many people criticized Steve Jobs for not getting involved in charity, although he had billions in the bank? Do you think it looks good for Harvard University, with over $15bn in endowment to not do any good will project?
Lastly, some of these schools already offer remote learning via video. Putting the videos on iTunes is a sunk cost.
Disclosure: I went to one of those "big name" institutions as an undergrad, grad student, and I also worked there. Few are the projects that are TRULY out of the goodness of somebody's heart
My response was on the point of whether other institutions in the "diploma business" would peek to keep up. I was merely stating why Harvard, Stanford, MIT and the like have nothing to fear by opening their courseware. My intentions were merely to diffuse the notion that replicating instruction would suffice to compete with Harvard.
As to why they do it, I think other comments have covered that.
Top professors at top universities have a lot of clout, and despite the many issues there are with the current system of higher ed, I do believe that a lot of this work is sincerely driven by the ideals of good professors. Look at the interviews with Sebastian Thrun regarding the AI course, he clearly believes in finding a models of maximizing the quality to cost ratio for education.
Culturally I think places like Stanford, Harvard and MIT know well that many times you don't find your business model until you experiment, and if you want to be in charge of the future you have to be the one doing the experimenting. I think the angle that sells this to admins is that if you're a leading university you want to be pushing these boundaries, and if you want to be a head of the curve you need to be.
I am class of '08 at Harvard and actually took this course (taught be a different professor--excellent when I took it). There were a handful of Boston and Cambridge locals who sat in and took the course with me. No one ever said a word to them. When I took a course on the history of Hollywood Cinema--where we watched 2 movies a week on the big screen--there were probably 30 or so locals who sat in on the lectures. No one ever said anything to them.
So Harvard has been a part of the community for some time now .. it's just more public now that you can disseminate lectures on iTunes and the internet instead of actually sitting in the lecture hall.