When Abhay Parekh, who earned his doctorate in Electrical Engineering from MIT in 1992, first heard of MIT OpenCourseWare, he immediately recognized the potential of the program. "Having grown up in India, I didn't really feel as a high school student that I had access to all the information that I wanted. If I had the opportunity to take advantage of something like OpenCourseWare I would have had way more fun learning."
Access to top instructors
Parekh is currently a private investor and Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He was previously co-founder and CEO of Flowgram, an innovative web-based presentation platform, and FastForward Networks, a video distribution technology company. He has been a venture partner at Accel Partners. He describes the impact of being able to study at MIT. "I felt very privileged to have access to so many master teachers, people who understood their subjects and could communicate not just the facts but the essence of their fields."
Parekh recognized that OCW could share the expertise of MIT faculty more broadly. "One of the wonderful things that OCW has the potential to accomplish is to allow wider set of people who are all over the world to have access to that knowledge."
Contributing to areas of need
Parekh decided to support OCW not only because of the potential he saw in the program, but also because of the challenges. "If this were done right," he recalls thinking, "it could have a tremendous impact on the world. At the same time, I was concerned that it may be difficult to get professors to put all their stuff online."
To address this challenge, Parekh endowed an OCW Department Liaison position to ensure a solid link between the Electrical Engineering Department and the OpenCourseWare staff, and to give the Electrical Engineering faculty the logistical support they need to share their teaching materials. Parekh also saw the value of video and multimedia for students and independent learners coming to the OCW site. "One of the advantages in my mind of having the actual lectures in an immersive video or audio format is that the student really gets the context of what's in the class."
Moving the mission forward
Parekh's gift reflects both a belief in the the impact of OCW and a recognition of the program's challenges. While OCW is a remarkably efficient way of generating global educational benefit, it is not produced without effort and cost. The support of Abhay Parekh and other individuals is key to helping OCW meet our challenges and continue to empower minds worldwide. "Through my gift," Parekh says, "I hope to contribute to areas where I see a need."