Category Archives: Education

Sexual Harassment through MIT online courses

“Walter Lewin May 16, 2011 talk at MIT”. Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There is a Fundamental Principle for any new object on the Internet: “If it exists, there is a sexual use for it”. Online courses are no exception. Yesterday, Massachusetts Institute of Technology released its official decision to take down all online lectures and courses from retired physics professor Walter Lewin, after some of his online students on EdX reported sexual harassment. After investigation, MIT has determined that Lewin’s behaviour toward the complainant violated the Institute’s policy on sexual harassment. A taste of deception for Walter Lewin fans And I used to be one of them, not anymore after this revelation. For those who do not know him, Prof. Walter Lewin, 78 years old, is the legendary figure of MIT OpenCourseware, his lectures were not only video-casted physics lessons in MIT classes, but beyond that, a lesson of teaching with class, as you can see in the brief report on him in the video below. Knowing that a brilliant teacher -who was a symbol for the pre-MOOC era with his lectures viewed by hundreds of thousands on the Internet-  can have such an inappropriate behaviour towards his students is a hard fact to accept. But MIT’s decision was not contested by Lewin himself, confirming that he really is the author of a misbehaviour. On MIT’s decision to take down online lectures of Lewin If I found it legitimate from MIT to cut Lewin’s involvement in any form of interactive teaching, namely trough MITx on the EdX platform, where Lewin could interact and chat with students. I do not understand the removal of his Opencourseware material, that helps and inspire many students or teachers in the world, while not providing any interaction possibility for Lewin. MIT’s decision is said to cut any ties with Lewin, would MIT have asked for the removal of Lewin’s books from libraries, or the removal of his research papers from journals ? Or ask journals to remove Lewin’s affiliation in the papers? I think they would not, and I believe the same should be done with Lewin’s lectures. Lewin’s behaviour is unforgivable, but as far a similar measure have not been done with his non-internet-based previous works, the logic behind removing his lectures seems absurd and follows the usual exaggeration happening when people deal with Internet content.