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School’s OCW Site Translated Into Chinese

In April of this year, the School broke through an educational barrier when it launched its OpenCourseWare (OCW) site. OCW grants free Internet access, though no academic credit, to the content for some of the School’s most popular courses to students and self-learners anywhere in the world.

And now, thanks to the Opensource Opencourseware Prototype System (OOPS), a program that translates educational resources into Chinese, the language barrier is being broken as well. OOPS has replicated the School’s OCW site in simplified Chinese (the language of mainland China) and in traditional Chinese (spoken in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan). The translated sites received more than 5,000 page views in October alone.

OOPS is the brainchild of Lucifer Chu. In 2003, Chu, known for translating J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings into Chinese, read an article in Wired magazine that described Asian students trying to use MIT’s OCW.

“I was deeply touched,” he says. “After I read the article, I thought, what if?” Chu quit his job at a publishing house and founded the OOPS project to translate MIT’s OCW site for Chinese-speaking people. When the Bloomberg School’s OCW site went live, Chu knew OOPS had to translate it, too.

“Johns Hopkins and MIT are really generous,” Chu says. “The [OCW] materials are all in English, and what I’m trying to do is help give them to developing countries.” Part of the OOPS mission is to reach out to less fortunate people through the donation of knowledge, Chu says. OCW embodies that.

In May, OOPS posted the HTML pages for the Chinese versions of the School’s OCW site. Since then, they have been translating the PDF and other content files that users can download from these pages. The content for the Refugee Health Care course has all been translated and is now being reviewed. Chu says he hopes the content for the School’s remaining 13 courses will be downloadable by August 2006.

The translation, as well as the design and programming, is done by some 1,700 like-minded volunteers recruited largely by email and word of mouth. The “OOPSers,” as they’re called, include CEOs, professors, engineers, accountants, musicians, designers, lawyers, doctors and students.

After translation, the pages are reviewed by an editor and proofread. The pages must be approved by the OOPS review board composed of content experts in the field before being published on the site.

When Chu founded OOPS, he created a server with two old computers he hid in the dormitory of National Central University in Taiwan, where he is an alumnus. Last year, the university found out. “But I persuaded them that what we’re doing is a good thing,” Chu says. So much so that the university agreed to provide a server. Today, there are six or seven servers at different universities in China, all dedicated to posting translated course content from MIT, the Bloomberg School, Utah State University, and the Japan OCW Alliance. OOPs has completed 55 courses, and 1,020 courses currently being translated.

Despite the growth in OOPS, Chu says that to maintain Hopkins OCW site, he needs more volunteers with public health backgrounds. One volunteer is currently working on two courses. “He’s really doing something that can help other people,” Chu says.--Kristi Birch

For more information on the OOPS project, contact Lucifer Chu at lucifer.chu@gmail.com.