MIT has joined a growing list of universities worldwide in the OCW (OpenCourseWare) Consortium. An OpenCourseWare is "a free and open digital publication of high quality educational materials, organized as courses".
Of interest to language learners is MIT's Foreign Languages and Literatures Department on the MIT OpenCourseWare website. While courses in this department range from "Communicating Across Cultures" and "Japanese Literature and Cinema" to "Topics in South Asian Literature and Culture" and "Expository Writing for Bilingual Students", they do also include specific language education courses. Currently at ocw.mit.edu, OpenCourseWares are available for learning the French, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish languages.
What makes these truly "free and open" to the general public is the Creative Commons license under which these OpenCourseWares are licensed: The Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike 3.0 License. In a nutshell, this license gives the public freedom to share, copy, distribute, display and make derivative works of the courses as long as they give proper attribution, do not use it for commercial purposes and "share alike" (under the same license) any new changes or improvements.
This is an exciting project to see! In time, free and "OpenCourseWares" should be available for learning all the world's major languages and, I hope, at least some of the minority languages as well. Bravo MIT and the OCW Consortium!
MIT OpenCourseWare is an idea—and an ideal—developed, supported, and embraced by the MIT faculty, who share the Institute's mission to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship to best serve the nation and the world. In 1999 the Faculty considered how to take best advantage of the Internet to advance education, and in 2000 proposed OCW. The rest is our history...