FAQ: Technology

 
What are the technical requirements for viewing MIT OpenCourseWare course materials?

I have downloaded an MIT OpenCourseWare course, but I can't access the materials. How do I get started?

Is it possible to save the video files to a disk or to my hard drive?

Is the MIT OpenCourseWare site compliant with W3C standards and accessibility requirements?

What information does MIT OpenCourseWare collect from visitors to the site?

What technology is used to publish the MIT OpenCourseWare site?

How does OCW create video and audio lectures?

 

What are the technical requirements for viewing MIT OpenCourseWare course materials?

MIT OpenCourseWare has tested the site with the following browsers:

Chrome 20+
Firefox 13+ (all platforms)
Internet Explorer 8.0+ (Windows)
Safari 5.1+ (Mac OSX)

Although higher-speed connections are preferable, slower connections, such as 28.8 kbps modems, should allow users to view most materials on the sites; however, downloading materials will take a longer period of time.

Some file types within the course material require special software to use; these are identified on the individual course pages. The most common format in use on the MIT OpenCourseWare site are PDF files. We recommend you download and view these files with Adobe Reader or other PDF reader to see the files as intended; viewing the files in a web browser is not recommended.

 

I have downloaded an MIT OpenCourseWare course, but I can't access the materials. How do I get started?

Zip files contain the same content as the online version. They allow you to review OCW materials on your computer even when you're not online.

  1. Unzip the course packaging with decompression software. Most operating systems already have decompression software installed, but if yours does not, you can use software such as WinZip or Stuffit. Note: Windows will let you browse into a Zip file without unzipping, but the links will not work.
  2. The file called imsmanifest.xml is used in packaging and in some external systems; you do not need to access this file when browsing your course.
  3. Start by opening the course folder (for example: 3-093Fall-2006).
  4. Inside this folder is a file called START.htm. Double-click this file to begin using your downloaded course.

Please note that audio, video, and some other special files are not included in the download zip package in order to keep these files a manageable size. You can download these files through links provided in the course. Some audio and video lectures are also available through MIT's iTunes U and YouTube sites.

 

Is it possible to save the video files to a disk or to my hard drive?

YouTube
Some of our videos are available on YouTube. Download is not available for these files. To see the complete collection, visit http://youtube.com/mit.

iTunes U
Links to our videos on iTunes U require Apple's free iTunes application. If you have this application, these links will automatically open it. Once you have iTunes open, you can download a single lecture by selecting "Get Movie," or the entire course by selecting "Get Tracks." Once you've downloaded these lectures, iTunes will automatically add it to your library.

Internet Archive
Some OCW videos are available on Internet Archive as both MP4 and Real Media files (and a few other types provided by Internet Archive, such as OGG). To download these, right+click on the link (MP4 or RM) and select "Save Link As." To watch MP4 files, you need QuickTime. Real Media files require Real Player.

 

Is the MIT OpenCourseWare site compliant with W3C standards and accessibility requirements?

The templates we designed for our content management system (CMS) are both valid HTML 4.01 and meet Sec. 508 & WCAG AA Web Accessibility recommendations. Our style guide has been revised to include validating and checking the accessibility of HTML as part of the authoring process. Our standards require all images on our web pages to contain ALT attributes. Our data tables contain heavy use of the scope and headers attributes that make it easier to navigate using screenreaders such as JAWS.

We spend a lot of time on the accessibility of PDFs. As part of our conversion process we remove any PDFs using Type 3 or bitmapped fonts. We use Adobe's "Make Accessible" plugin before finalizing the document. We work closely with the MIT Adaptive Technology for Information and Computing Lab to ensure that the MIT OpenCourseWare course sites are as accessible as possible.

As resources permit, we create transcripts and subtitles for our lecture videos. Approximately half of our lecture videos now contain transcripts. These are identified on each course home page under "Course Features."

 

What information does MIT OpenCourseWare collect from visitors to the site?

The information we collect from visitors helps us improve the MIT OpenCourseWare site, and assists us in evaluating the access, use, and impact of MIT OpenCourseWare on the worldwide educational community. MIT OpenCourseWare collects the following information from visitors:

  • Information You Provide: We receive and store any information you enter on the MIT OpenCourseWare Web site or give us in any other way. You provide most such information when you submit feedback on the site, contact us by e-mail, or agree to participate in a visitor survey. This information may include your name and e-mail address, your academic status, your institution, your geographic region, how you are using MIT OpenCourseWare, and what you think of the site. In all cases, any information you provide is strictly optional and voluntary, and you may choose to use the MIT OpenCourseWare site without ever providing this information. If you voluntarily provide your e-mail address or other contact information, we will not share personal information with anyone without first requesting your explicit permission to do so.
  • Automatic Information: We receive and store certain types of information whenever you interact with the MIT OpenCourseWare site. Like many web sites, we make use of "cookies," and we obtain certain types of information when your browser accesses our site. Examples of the information we collect and analyze include the Internet protocol (IP) address used to connect your computer to the MIT OpenCourseWare site; computer and connection information such as browser type and version, operating system, and platform, and; content you viewed or searched for during your visit to MIT OpenCourseWare. During some visits we may use software tools to measure and collect session information, including page response times, download errors, and length of visits to certain pages. If your browser is configured to not accept cookies, you will still enjoy full access to all MIT OpenCourseWare content. However, none of this information is personally identifiable or linked back to you individually.
  • E-mail Communications: We maintain a list of interested visitors who voluntarily provide their e-mail addresses and to whom we e-mail the monthly "MIT OpenCourseWare Update" e-mail newsletter, and other infrequent e-mail announcements pertaining to MIT OpenCourseWare.

 

What technology is used to publish MIT OpenCourseWare?

The MIT OpenCourseWare technology solution supports a complex publishing process. This large-scale digital publishing infrastructure consists of planning tools, a content management system (CMS), and the MIT OpenCourseWare content distribution infrastructure.

The planning tools used by the MIT OpenCourseWare team to assist faculty in publishing their course materials include a custom application of FileMaker Pro, and several checklists and documents. For creating and managing content, we use several desktop tools (file conversion tools) as well as the open-source CMS, Plone. Our content delivery infrastructure includes a sophisticated publishing engine, content staging server, and a content delivery network utilizing Akamai's EdgeSuite platform.

For more information on the MIT OpenCourseWare publishing environment or technology, please contact MIT OpenCourseWare.

 

How does OCW create video and audio lectures?

Video and audio production is one of the most expensive and time-consuming parts of the OCW production process.

To record lectures and other course material, we partner with an MIT media production group. Once this is complete, we review the video content to identify any third-party material (such as music or diagrams that appear in slides) and try to obtain permission from the owner to display the material. In some cases, this is impossible and we have to edit out these sections of the recording.

When each video is edited, we encode them into H.264 MP4s.

Transcripts and subtitles are increasingly available for our video content, with subtitles available for about half of our courses with full lecture videos. Subtitles are created by a vendor and reviewed by a student who has taken the course or has subject-matter expertise.

If you would like to support MIT OpenCourseWare's video production, please consider making a donation.