Anyone Can Take Courses From the Best Professors in the World…For Free

There are several exciting new ways that anyone can take courses from some of the best universities and professors in the United States.  Best of all, they are free!  An article in today’s New York Times reports that Tuesday, a dozen major research universities are joining Coursera, a one year old company founded by two Stanford University computer scientists.  They will offer over 100 free, open online courses that are expected to draw millions of users. 

Even before the announcement of this expansion, Coursera had registered 680,000 students in over 63 courses.  One University of Michigan professor reported that 40,000 students downloaded his video, saying, “By my calculations, I had about 200 years worth of students in my class.”  This is just the beginning in the new wave of open-source courses.  Stanford University has offered free courses on artificial intelligence and computer sciences that has attracted over 190,000 users.  Massachusetts institute of Technology (MIT) has its own online learning initiative called MITx, and they have teamed up with Harvard University to offer an initiative called EDx.  Another notable addition to these new, free open-courses is the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) by Carnegie Melon University who offer up their online courses to students or teachers who would like to use them.  They also do research  to test the effectiveness of their courses.

This is an indication of a promising future for public education.  Right now institutions are not concerned with making revenue, but in the future these courses could be linked together and used to gain a traditional degree.  The value of these initiatives is that they offer high quality college courses to high school students, college-bound students, mid-career students, and foreign students at no charge.  I think it is one of the most exciting things in education today. – Kasey Klepfer

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