June 27, 2012

Online lectures and courses – free!

Writing about web page http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses

When I heard that Harvard and MIT created a joint venture to offer free distance learning courses worldwide I had a quick look on the Internet. The JV is in its early stages: currently there is (was?) just one course in Circuits and Electronics, but others will come.*

Yet, without wanting to rain on the 'new' e-distance learning parade or anything, there are already lots of freely available resources, including full courses, from many top universities, conveniently listed here: http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses

Just saying.

I suppose the lure of the Harvard and MITs edX, and similar partnerships, is their high-profile set-up, offering free courses which will give those who are successful a 'certificate', backed by leading higher education institutions. According to this NYTimes article, the 'certificate' is apparently not convertible to any official (educational?) credit, but I wonder whether this might change.

Although it is clearly highlighted that these free e-courses are not equivalent to a bachelor's degree, could they provide some kind of alternative when higher education is increasingly less affordable? People from low-income countries have responded to this development positively. But another question is whether these courses will remain free of charge, or whether some kind of tiered system will evolve, where the basic material is provided free, but to get some actual educational credit one would have to pay.

But anyway. Learning things is always good, so on the whole it looks like these university endorsed e-courses are a good move. Not sure about using natural-language software to assess essays, particularly humanities essays. Also not sure about crowd-sourcing, or peer-assessment if it is the only way of grading work. But in general, I am interested to see what happens. And if I can, I shall definitely look into some of these online resources myself.

*Although the MITx image shows happy Apple users, the Circuits and Electronics course apparently has only partial non-Flash support, so the girl with the iPad may not be getting to fully experience the course content.


An inexhaustive list of free online course databases

http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses- courses of all kinds for many levels

http://www.onlinecourses.com - HE courses, has ability to create course lists and track progress

http://futurelearn.com- UK thing, yet to offer stuff, watching this space

https://www.coursera.org

https://www.udacity.com

Generally, The Internet.


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