Elite Colleges Now Offer Free Online Courses

From Harvard to Stanford, a growing number of elite universities are throwing open their digital doors to the masses. They’re offering their most popular courses online for no charge, allowing anyone with an Internet connection to learn from world-renowned scholars and scientists.

The proliferation of so-called massive open online courses, or MOOCs, has the potential to transform higher education at a time when colleges and universities are grappling with shrinking budgets, rising costs and protests over soaring tuition and student debt.

Supporters say these online courses can lower teaching costs, improve learning online and on campus, and significantly expand access to higher education, which could fuel technological innovation and economic growth.


Last month, a dozen major research universities announced they would begin offering courses on the online learning platform Coursera, joining Stanford and Princeton universities and the universities of Pennsylvania and Virginia. The University of California, Berkeley said it would start making online courses available this fall through edX, a competing Web portal launched in May by Harvard University and MIT with $60 million in funding from the two schools.

So far, the new online courses are attracting mostly older workers who want to upgrade their skills and knowledge, but may not have the time or money to attend classes on campus. The new generation of online courses features interactive technology, open admissions, high-caliber curriculum and the ability to teach tens of thousands of students at once. The universities say the online courses are as rigorous as their campus counterparts.

Are you in favor of these elite universities offering free online courses? Do you think cyber courses can really undermine systems of colleges and universities?

Source: Yahoo News

Image: Boston

A Graduate Degree For $100?

Ask Sebastian Thrun what makes him tick, and the inventor and Google Fellow ­offers up three favorite themes: big open problems, a desire to help people and “disrespect for authority.” Thrun, 45, has been aiming high—and annoying the old guard—for nearly two decades.

Thrun has found a fresh challenge that excites him even more: fixing higher education. Conventional ­university teaching is way too costly, inefficient and ­ineffective to survive for long, he contends. Financiers at Charles River Ventures have already pumped $5 million into Thrun’s online-ed startup, Udacity. “I like to back people who have disruptive ­personalities,” explains CRV partner George Zachary. “They create disruptive solutions.”

Getting a master’s degree might cost just $100. After teaching his own artificial intelligence class at Stanford last year—and attracting 160,000 online signups—Thrun believes online formats can be far more effective than traditional classroom lectures.


Udacity is charting its own path as a career academy for brainy people of all ages. Udacity’s offices are just a few hundred yards from Stanford, but they’re a world away from the school’s idyllic environs. Its open, barnlike work area has stained beige carpets, cheap desks and a Go board perched on a flimsy coffee table. Most of its 25 employees are video, graphics or software whizzes determined to make each second of online instruction as eye-catching and compelling as possible.

It currently offers 11 courses, for free, in subjects such as computer programming, statistics and mathematics, plus a robocar programmer’s workshop with Thrun himself. Thrun decided to apply new elements to a fall 2011 artificial intelligence class that he and Google research chief Peter Norvig cotaught at Stanford. By Thrun’s tally he influenced more students through that single online course than he had in all his two decades of classroom teaching.

What do you think of the idea of Udacity? Would you want to be one of Sebastian Thrun’s students and pursue a degree for a meager hundred bucks?

Source: Digg

Image: The Air Space