Open Courseware in Music from Major Universities

Traditional schools around the country began offering “open” courses years ago in an attempt to join the online education community and additionally attract a new variety of students.  Open courses are simply lecture notes and sometimes lectures from courses that schools offered a few years ago, but leave online for interested students. These open courses have ranged in subject from engineering to poetry, to the even more surprising topic of music.  We mostly consider music to be a class which cannot be taught through the internet, but online education has taught us that nothing is impossible in education.

MIT jumped on the bandwagon years ago and began offering free online courses to students around the world who were interested in what courses at MIT were like.  While these courses do not count toward any type of degree and are simply offered to any individual, they offer a new peak inside the Ivy League programs and may attract potential students to their programs.  Their most popular programs were ones in the science and math fields (what the school is most known for), but they have offered surprising open courses in music as well.  Their current open courseware offerings in music range from world music courses to introduction to “Composing for Jazz Orchestras.”  With more than twenty courses in music offered at MIT’s online open courseware site, the school has delved into its foray with online education and attracted a new class of students since it posted the courses.

Columbia has also joined the online community through its open courseware listings, although the school currently only hosts one music seminar on its website.  While the course, “Music from the Renaissance and Baroque”, is appealing to many students of music, the wide variety of MIT’s music courses is major competition to the smaller offerings of Columbia. 

Harvard is in the same boat as Columbia, offering minimal open courses, although the school is different from the other two since it continuously updates its site according to the school year.  It currently features classes from the 2008-2009 school year, featuring one music course in the “History of Blues in America.”  Like the other two schools, Harvard offers a wide range of classes in different subjects, focusing on computer science and liberal arts programs.

Open courses are an ongoing experiment, as it has yet to be revealed whether the free lectures attract more students to the colleges.  One thing is for sure though: the many available lectures that can now be downloaded allow interested individuals to gain a more thorough knowledge of a topic which may be difficult to research on their own.  How else would you get the information offered in MIT’s “Schubert to Debussy?”


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