Tuesday, February 07, 2012

We don't need no education... but what if it's free?

Last night, I discovered through Monevator that Stanford University is now offering free online courses, including one on Model Thinking, which has received Forbes' endorsement. Now, Stanford's online offering Coursera states that it is:
We are committed to making the best education in the world freely available to any person who seeks it. We envision people throughout the world, in both developed and developing countries, using our platform to get access to world-leading education that has so far been available only to a tiny few. We see them using this education to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live.
Truly, an admirable purpose. If you're time-constrained or worry about whether you can keep up, have no fear, as you can view the online lectures and peruse the reading materials at your own pace. If you so wish, you can tackle the quizzes and final exam, and, if you pass, receive a certificate of completion.

What's particularly interesting is that the online courses are not solely aimed at students online. Students attending Stanford also attend the same lectures. Statistics showed that those who attended the course online were more dedicated and tended to score higher than those who attended the course in real life.

Other free online courses include Udacity and Open Yale Courses. Udacity is founded by Sebastian Thrun, formerly of Stanford, who resigned after he saw the success of the free online course he gave when Coursera first launched. He's now set up an online university aimed at delivering a technical education. The first two courses are CS101: Building a Search Engine, which requires no prior programming knowledge, and CS373: Programming a Robotic Car.

Open Yale Courses offers free access to introductory courses taught at the university, including one on Financial Markets taught by renowned professor and behavioural economist Robert Schiller and several on Political Science including Introduction to Political Philosophy and Capitalism: Success, Crisis and Reform.

MIT Open Courseware (h/t @deenadollars), one of the earliest to introduce the concept of online courses open to all, offers close to 2,000 courses. It's "a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content" and is a "permanent" activity. Courses range from Aeronautics and Astronautics to Writing and Humanistic Stuides, covering subjects such as The Challenge of World Poverty, Philosophy of Love in the Western World (a timely discovery considering Valentine's Day is next week), and Information Theory.

In the cases of Coursera and Udacity, courses are due to begin later this month. Open Yale Courses and MIT Open Courseware courses can be started any time.

What have I signed up for? I've gone for Model Thinking, Game Theory and Computer Science 101 at Coursera, CS101: Building a Search Engine at Udacity and will look at the Financial Markets and Capitalism: Success, Crisis and Reform courses offered by Yale. It may be a bit much for me, even with the time I have on my hands right now, but, I might as well make the best of it. Plus, I'm Singaporean. I was born to take exams. It's in my DNA.

As Matt Cutts says in the 30-day challenge video I posted yesterday, "The next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not. So why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot for the next 30 days?"

Udacity: How It's Been So Far

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