Open Yale Courses: New Media, Traditional Pedagogy

I was invited to attend Yale’s “blogger press conference” this evening to announce their new Open Yale Courses. Right now, they have 7 courses available, and they plan to add an additional 30 over the next 3 years. All courses are under a CC-NC-SA license.

This seems very much centered around traditional courses, with a lot of focus on the individual professors and their credentials. It’s Yale though, so I suppose that’s to be expected. The goal seems to really be about translating the full content of a face-to-face course into online formats, without interactions.

The pedagogy isn’t especially innovative; it’s just lectures, readings, and handouts. Since they are Creative Commons licensed though, someone could set up a study group or otherwise organize people to work together to supplement the content with peer interactions. They aren’t learner-centered right now, but someone could use these materials to create something learner-centered.

However, the quality of the media is good, and I do think that it’s a good sign that very traditional colleges like Yale are at least dipping their toes in the water for sharing online content. They also get kudos for working to provide accessibility for all the content; everything is available in multiple formats, and the transcripts were created by real people.

My live blogged notes are below; my comments are in italics.

Professor Diana Kleiner—main presenter

Other presenters:

  • Mark Hanna
  • Paul Lawrence

Why is Yale doing this?

Part of the larger mission to increase the presence of the university, helps democratize education, technologically forward.

What’s new here?

  • Not going to put everything out, but complete content with supporting material for introductory courses.
  • Focus on video
  • Broad variety of disciplines, focusing on humanities where less is currently available

No enrollment or registration—anyone can essentially audit courses, but with no interactions with faculty

Feedback has a survey for the overall site; each course has surveys too to give feedback.

Demo of Physics course

Materials available:

  • Simplified syllabus
  • Class sessions
    • each individual lecture
    • corresponding reading assignment
    • Problem sets/handouts
  • Downloads—download the whole course or a larger section at once
  • Survey

Lecture formats:

  • Html transcript
  • Mp3
  • Video
    • Flash
    • Quicktime (high or low bandwidth)


Q: What percentage of Yale courses are available online? (From Karl Kapp)
A: Very low—Yale has over 1000 courses, 7 isn’t a very high percentage. This is a pilot. Their goal is different from MIT where they are focusing on sharing all components of a few courses instead of partial materials for all courses. Their focus is also on video, which they feel is “the most effective way” to put content online.

Q: Is the idea for someone to get the equivalent of a degree? (Karl)
A: Although 30 courses is the number of courses, these online courses are mostly introductory and it isn’t right now a whole degree program. That might change in the future.

Q: Is the decision to focus on video based on specific research on video for learning effectiveness? (my question)
A: No specific research supporting. They do offer multiple methods to access content (audio and transcript too). Anecdotal supports video. Some of it is the “YouTube Generation” and video is an increasingly common way to interact.

One of the reason it hasn’t been tapped before is concerns about sharing full content online. Video gives more immediacy than other methods. Producing videos of actual courses without editing—they give a full record of what happened.

Q: How were professors chosen for this? Will they be required to do this in the future? (from David Parry, AcademHack)
A: They selected initially. They want faculty teaching interesting subjects, passionate about what they are doing, have interesting presentation. All for pilot are tenured faculty, who are more willing to share intellectual property than junior faculty. Over time they want to include more junior faculty too. They don’t see this as a requirement for everyone; they want it to be voluntary.

Q: What made you think of doing a blog-only press conference? Innovative way to do the press. (Karl)
A: When they announced it initially, they got a few print pieces but also blog coverage. It seemed like this was a natural fit for online. They will do traditional media press too.


You can share the courses on other pages. Includes descriptions of each course and a way to share with others.

I’m not sure why you’d do this—there isn’t much dynamic content or anything to directly interact with. Why would you have a widget that doesn’t let you do anything?

Made a comment that all was available for RSS. I don’t see any feeds though…

Q: Are all materials in open file formats to enable remixes & mashups? (David Parry)
A: Quicktime is high quality to make it better for mashups. But Quicktime isn’t an open format, is it?

Q: Is all text html or is some downloads? (David Parry)
A: Some PDF downloads.

Q: Accessibility? (David Parry)
A: Yes, that was a big consideration. Transcripts were done by real people as a real transcript of what happened that day.

Q: (from Barry Jahn (eLearning for K-12)
Just saying it was really good and he was glad to see Yale provide the content.

Q: Will this always be Yale courses or will this end up being opened up to other colleges? (Karl)
A: Right now they plan for this to be Yale only, although they do hope to learn from other colleges and that other institutions will learn from Yale.

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