In the year 2000, MIT's 15th president, Charles M. Vest, received the recommendation of the Lifelong Learning Committee that proposed MIT OpenCourseWare. The proposal was bold and counter-intuitive. At a time when peer institutions were launching massive for-profit online learning efforts, the committee suggested using the Internet to give away the core academic materials—including syllabi, lecture notes, assignments and exams—from all of MIT's courses.
President Vest, who by his own admission was not prone to making snap decisions, recognized the significance of the proposal immediately, and was instrumental in securing the funding and marshaling the Institute resources necessary to realize the faculty's vision for OCW. Throughout his tenure, President Vest was a tireless advocate for OCW and the open sharing of academic content. He remained a member of MIT OpenCourseWare's External Advisory board after he stepped down as MIT's president until his passing in December 2013. With his death, the MIT community and the open educational resources movement lost one of the visionary voices that has transformed how higher education institutions understand their role in the digital space.
In this 2011 panel discussion, President Vest describes receiving the proposal from the Lifelong Learning Committee.
MIT's Institutional Decision to do OpenCourseWare