Over the past decade, a small revolution has taken place at some of the world’s leading universities, as they have started to provide free access to undergraduate course materials—including syllabi, assignments, and lectures—to anyone with an Internet connection. Yale offers high-quality audio and video recordings of a careful selection of popular lectures, MIT supplies digital materials for nearly all of its courses, Carnegie Mellon boasts a purpose-built interactive learning environment, and some of the most selective universities in India have created a vast body of online content in order to reach more of the country’s exploding student population. Although they don’t offer online credit or degrees, efforts like these are beginning to open up elite institutions—and may foreshadow significant changes in the way all universities approach teaching and learning. Unlocking the Gates is one of the first books to examine this important development.
Drawing on a wide range of sources, including extensive interviews with university leaders, Taylor Walsh traces the evolution of these online courseware projects and considers the impact they may have, both inside elite universities and beyond. As economic constraints and concerns over access demand more efficient and creative teaching models, these early initiatives may lead to more substantial innovations in how education is delivered and consumed—even at the best institutions. Unlocking the Gates tells an important story about this form of online learning—and what it might mean for the future of higher education.
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of the 2012 Philip E. Frandson Award for Literature in the Field of Continuing Higher Education, University Professional and Continuing Education Association
Taylor Walsh writes on behalf of Ithaka S+R, a not-for-profit strategy and research service that supports innovation in the academic community.
"Presidents and provosts can't afford to ignore the open/online courseware developments analyzed by Taylor Walsh in Unlocking the Gates. Walsh's exploration of leading initiatives in the open sharing of digital course materials makes it clear that the unbundling of materials creation, course design, and pedagogy is well underway and will have profound implications for the structure of faculty work. That is, the gates are not just unlocked: the barn door is standing wide open."—Jo Ellen Parker, president of Sweet Briar College
"I have been on record for some time as being skeptical about the likely effects on productivity in higher education of various new technologies. . . . But the evidence that Walsh presents about the work at Carnegie Mellon has caused me to re-think my position. . . . Unlocking the Gates is a splendid introduction to a fascinating and fast-changing world. Unless I am badly mistaken, over time all sectors of higher education will be affected in one way or another by what are truly transformational changes in the way knowledge is created and disseminated. Now that increasing numbers of universities, including some of the most prestigious, are using technology to let the world into their precincts, it will never again be possible to lock the gates."—from the foreword by William G. Bowen, president emeritus, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Princeton University
"New technologies and budget austerity have increased the urgency to experiment with online learning in higher education, both on campus and distance learning. It is extremely timely that Taylor Walsh presents and analyzes case studies of selective universities' attempts to develop online courseware. There is very much to be learned about business models, the hopes and fears of faculty and administrators, and the organizational structures and cultures of the universities involved from these clearly written and always provocative studies of Yale, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley, Columbia, and a program in India. Unlocking the Gates will be essential reading for those interested in online learning, indeed for those thinking about the evolution of higher education in the United States and globally."—Henry Bienen, president emeritus, Northwestern University
"This book tells an interesting and important story. The research is fabulous and probing, and the storyline is wonderfully focused on leadership and the decisions it makes in circumstances that are constantly evolving and uncertain."—Daniel Greenstein, vice provost for academic planning, programs, and coordination, University of California
"Unlocking the Gates tells the story of how a number of selective universities are venturing into the world of online education. Taylor Walsh explores the motivations, successes and failures, and prospects of these projects, asking whether they are worthy in their own right and whether they are the right moves for these universities."—Saul Fisher, associate provost, Hunter College, City University of New York