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MIT math professor Gilbert Strang says having a world audience 'is just wonderful.' ((Steven Senne/Associated Press))

The free online courses offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are getting more than a million hits a month, an example of the burgeoning interest in internet education.

Including translations onMIT's OpenCourseWare (OCW) site, the total rises to about 1.5 million hits.

Math professor Gilbert Strang's 18.06 linear algebra course (using and understanding matrices) is the most often downloaded, MIT's website said; users viewhislectures about 200,000 times a month.

More than half ofOCW users come from outside the United States,the universitysaid.

In Istanbul, Bogazici University undergraduate Kemal Burcak Kaplan uses Strang's material to raise his marks. InDar es Salaam, teacher Noorali Jiwaji at the Open University of Tanzania said Strang's lectures are atool and guide for students. "They feel lost and they don't have good books."

Strang welcomes the international students. "My life is in teaching,"he said. "To have a chance do that with a world audience is just wonderful."

MIT's online offerings, published under an open licence that encourages reuse, redistribution and modification for noncommercial purposes, include lecture notes, exams and lecture videos from more than 1,800 courses, virtually all of itscurriculum.

"The site includes voluntary contributions from 90 per cent of faculty and more than 2,600 members of the MIT community," the university said.

"The site embodies the generosity and dedication of our faculty," president Susan Hockfield said in November.

Online students, however, cannot get a degree.

Beyond MIT, the university's 2001 online initiative has spurred the OpenCourseWare Consortium, a group of more than 160 universities worldwide that have published an estimated 5,000 courses.

North Vancouver's Capilano College is the only Canadian institution listed on the consortium's website.

MIT launched a site for secondary students this fall called Highlights for High School.

Michael, fromrural Hagerstown, Md.,sent MIT an e-mailpraising the material. "Your website has contributed hundreds of hours to my education in physics as well as biology. Discovering and utilizing MIT's OpenCourseWare site was like finding $40,000 sitting on a park bench."

With files from the Associated Press