If the current economic state has you questioning whether paying tuition to our beloved University is worth it, you may want to consider exploring another route. One of the most prestigious institutions in the country will now let you sit in on its lectures without paying a cent. And the best part: There's no application process, no SAT to take and no recommendation letters to fill out.Massachusetts Institute of Technology's "OpenCourseWare" program is a broad effort by the university to help further worldwide education. Instead of keeping its doors closed — allowing in only brainiacs who can shell out the $37,782 per year in tuition and fees — MIT is using the Internet to give the general public access to their courses. The best part of the program is the courses, which provide their lectures through archived video in addition to the lecture notes, assignments, and tests given to students. Whether you're a stay-at-home mom looking to brush up on quantum mechanics or a confused college student looking for clarification on the causes of the American Revolution, the opportunities this program has created are game-changing.But before you drop out of this school, you should be aware of one important fact — not one MIT diploma will ever be awarded to a student through this program, no matter how many lectures they have watched or how much information they have absorbed. While users can be provided with homework and test answers, none will be graded. MIT recognized early on that allowing credit would decrease the value of an MIT education and ultimately affect the university's prestige.And, of course, there's the limitation of social interaction. Users will never get a one-on-one with professors or experience the atmosphere of the classroom or campus — all of which are central to the "educational experience." This is the same problem institutions like the University of Phoenix have to contend with. While the Internet certainly changes the way universities communicate and will bring new possibilities, radical change will ultimately be limited. There are too many components of a college education which cannot be downloaded.  Still, the concept has been recognized for its importance in an increasingly "flat" world. MIT's initial program has led to the creation of the OpenCourseWare Consortium — an organization with close to 200 participating universities from 32 countries (including Afghanistan), all adopting the "open source" approach to education by making their materials available to the public.The United States surprisingly makes up a relatively small portion of the participants with just 22 universities. And it's not limited to Ivy League schools with big endowments — the universities range in prestige from Johns Hopkins to Dixie State College of Utah.Unfortunately, LSU is not currently participating.While LSU may not be able to contribute a lot in the field of "Organic Optoelectronics" (MIT course number 6.973), the beauty of this consortium is the diversity it provides. If LSU were to participate, it could bring Cajun French to students in Quebec. Chinese engineers trying to understand how to control the Yellow River could be exposed to our excellent Coastal Management Department.LSU should embrace this new movement for open education by joining the OpenCourseWare Consortium and providing to the world the classes in which it holds a comparative advantage. The benefits are clear — greater exposure for LSU and promotion of Louisiana culture through course offerings like Louisiana political history.But bigger than all of this, LSU will show that it is committed to enhancing education both domestically and abroad — leveling the playing field by increasing access to higher education.Mark Macmurdo is a 22-year-old history and economics senior from Baton Rouge. Follow him on Twitter@TDR_mmacmurdo.--Contact Mark Macmurdo at mmacmurdo@lsureveille.com

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