In the world of the Internet, where everything is so easily available, it seems like all technology is a benefit to online learners. For those who aren't able to use the available traditional resources for various reasons, open source technology specifically is a huge boon. Let me share my seven-year journey of using open source and how it helped me add more value to both my personal and professional lives.
First step towards an open source world: MIT Open Course Ware
In 2006, one of my seniors told me about MIT Open Course Ware. I was researching the development of a safe pathway for the vehicles carrying harmful chemicals through a highly dense area. In this context, there was a need to understand certain aspects of urban planning and logistics. As I was studying at university, it was difficult to find the right materials explaining things on a basic level. MIT Open Course Ware provided valuable insights and, for the first time, introduced me towards the open source world.
My serious engagement with Open Course Ware started in late 2007. We were a team of 3 engineers involved in Jerusalem 2050, a competition organized by the School of Planning & Architecture at MIT. In this competition, we had to imagine the problems that the city of Jerusalem might face in the year 2050 and then present solutions to resolve them. At that point, we didn't know much about city planning, public policy, and other similar subjects.
To prepare, I studied few urban planning classes on the Open Course Ware website. It helped me to understand key aspects mandatory for cities to function in effective manners. Using this knowledge, we suggested a nine point strategic solution as our entry into the competition. We touched upon issues like security, infrastructure, education, as well as suggestions on resolving ongoing conflicts among different communities. Though we did not win, this opportunity made the Open Course Ware website one of my favorite places to discover new knowledge.
Lack of resources? No problem
I did not realize the importance of open source materials until I started my project "Envisioning 21st century global manager" and faced both financial and resources difficulties. I relocated to my hometown to reduce expenses and was left with only with my ambition, computer, and Internet, as well as lots of open source materials for fulfilling my objective. It was March of 2012. Today, after 2 years of hard work on this project and using many open source resources, I've finished my project. Here are some of the tools that helped me:
As part of my project, I took many courses and applied the knowledge toward different real world situations. Along with MIT Open Course Ware, I found valuable online classes at the Open Education Consortium, Open Yale Courses through Yale University, and the Open Learning Initiative through Carnegie Mellon University.
I have studied courses like Global Strategy and Organization from MIT OCW, Islamic Societies in Middle East and Africa from University of Notre Dame, and An Introduction to International Trade Negotiations from University of Korea. Clearly, if the knowledge was not so openly available, I would not be able to pursue my ambitious project and share alternative learning paths with the rest of the world.
As part of my project, I wanted to study some foreign languages. I was living in a small town with no language schools to nearby. With no help in sight, I once again turned to many of the open source education resources, including publicly listed website and radio broadcasters. Using the language courses, I got many prominent links to find the best available resources, tested them, and then fit them into my own style of learning. This was a big experiment for me, but with so many resources available, I was able to find something that worked well and helped me learn effectively, in a fun way.
Whether it was Deutsche Welle for German, the Russian Language Institute for Russian, or NHK Radio International for Japanese, I was able to find free and open resources for learning languages. This method does require lot of dedication and practice, but for the first time, I realized that there is an abundant source of information available over the Internet. You just need to find it and then dedicate yourself to using it.