Then, two years ago, Magliozzi started up a side project called Finalsclub.org. The site bills itself as “the premier Web portal for interactive education,” allowing Harvard students to join online study groups and read annotated versions of the Great Books. But its most notable characteristic is that it pays Harvard students to post their lecture notes online.
The website’s name was borrowed from the school’s Final Clubs - insular all-male social clubs reputed to keep old lecture notes on file to help their less diligent members cram for exams. And just like the Final Clubs’ files, the site serves as a crutch for students who haven’t bothered to attend class or take their own notes.
Magliozzi, however, insists that there’s a higher purpose. He is taking the substance of Harvard courses, information previously sequestered within the ivory tower, and offering it free to anyone with an Internet connection.
“I’m a big believer that educational resources should be free, or as free as possible, and in a sense I would like to do it not only at Harvard but at every top institution in the world,” he says.
Finalsclub is not the first website to offer elite university course notes, for free, to a wider audience - other universities, most prominently MIT, have set up so-called open courseware sites of their own, and the largest dwarf Finalsclub’s offerings. Nor is the site the first to publish student lecture notes: A mini-industry of lecture note vendors has long existed around the campuses of large state universities, and it has migrated online in recent years.
But in combining the two - by relying on students, rather than professors, for material and then posting it for free - Finalsclub, along with a few larger sites like GradeGuru and StudyBlue, raise issues of their own. Because the site does not charge, the material Finalsclub posts is widely available, and, unlike with open courseware programs like MIT’s, Harvard has little say in the process.
-Does anyone own what universities teach?