Coursera makes top college courses free online

Jul 22, 2012 by Glenn Chapman
Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng share a vision in which anyone, no matter how destitute, can expand their minds and prospects with lessons from the world's top universities.

Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng share a vision in which anyone, no matter how destitute, can expand their minds and prospects with lessons from the world's top universities.

That dream was joined this week by a dozen vaunted academic institutions including Duke University, the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

The schools will add online versions of classes to Coursera.org, a website launched by Stanford University professors Koller and Ng early this year with debut offerings from Princeton, Stanford and two other US universities.

"We have a vision where students everywhere around the world, regardless of country, family circumstances or financial circle have access to top quality education whether to expand their minds or learn valuable skills," Koller said.

"Where education becomes a right, not a privilege."

Academic institutions are increasingly turning to the Internet as an educational platform. A Khan Academy website created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate Salman Khan provides thousands of video lectures.

The nonprofit behind prestigious TED gatherings recently launched a TED-Ed channel at that teams accomplished teachers with talented animators to make videos that captivate while they educate.

In May, Harvard University and MIT announced that they were teaming up to expand their online education programs -- and invited other institutions to jump on board.

Called edX, the $60 million joint venture builds on MIT's existing MITx platform that enables video lesson segments, embedded quizzes, immediate feedback, online laboratories and student-paced learning.

"Universities have come to realize that online is not a fad," Koller said. "The question is not whether to engage in this area but how to do it."

Coursera classes are free, and completion certificates are issued that people can use to win jobs or improve careers.

"If a student takes a Stanford computer class and a Princeton business class, it shows they are motivated and have skills," Koller said. "We know it has helped employees get better jobs."

Coursera is distinguishing itself with essentially virtual versions of real classes.

"A lot of what is out there is basically video with, perhaps, some static content like lecture notes," Koller said.

"We are providing an actual course exchange were people register and there is weekly homework that is graded with feedback about how they are doing."

Coursera classes launched in February with most of the courses slated to begin in the coming months but it has already attracted students in 190 countries, according to Koller.

Coursera uses crowd-sourcing to translate material into various languages and hopes to connect with French-speaking populations around the world with EPFL classes.

Hoping to spread knowledge around the world, Coursera is a way to inspire faculty to try new methods of teaching and find ways that Internet Age tools can enhance on-campus courses, according to Duke provost Peter Lange.

"Our faculty is incredibly excited by the idea of trying it out and seeing if we can learn from it," Lange said.

"I love the idealism of it; the potential to reach people who might never get the chance to attend the university."

Duke designs its online courses to get students involved, complete with social networking tools for collaborating outside of classes.

"This is a great experiment in innovation and learning," Lange said.

As of Friday, Coursera boasted about 740,000 students and that number is expected to soar as word spreads and class offerings expand.

Coursera plans to keep classes free but perhaps one day make money for operations by charging for course completion certificates or matching employers with qualified workers.

"Current ethos in Silicon Valley is that if you build a website that people keep coming back to and is changing the lives of millions, you can eventually make money," Koller said.

"If and when we develop revenue, universities will share in it."

Paying the bills is not a worry at Coursera due to generous backing that includes a $3.7 million combined investment by the University of Pennsylvania and the California Institute of Technology, as well as funding from venture capital powerhouse Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

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User comments : 18

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Jeweller
5 / 5 (9) Jul 22, 2012
This is a wonderful idea and I wish everyone involved, every success.
Vendicar_Decarian
2.7 / 5 (12) Jul 22, 2012
Excellent.

The Capitalist Constraints on education are vanishing and soon a good Liberal education will be the right of every person on earth.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.2 / 5 (10) Jul 22, 2012
Maybe Conservapedia could offer it's own courses on how the earth is the center of the universe, is only 7,000 years old and how Dinosaurs were kept by Adan and Eve as pets in the garden of Eden.

Other courses could include how to beg for money on sunday morning TV, how George Bush Jr, was the greatest president ever and how you can absolve yourself of responsibility through retroactive retirement, just like Mitt Romney.

irjsiq
2 / 5 (3) Jul 22, 2012
Excellent.

The Capitalist Constraints on education are vanishing and soon a good Liberal education will be the right of every person on earth.


The 'Tools' and technology, employed in acquiring a 'Free Online Education' are ALL produced by Capitalists!
One should have an open mind that ALL Capitalists, are not evil; though there are some rotten businessmen!
'Stealing' Patents, inventions, concepts, and ideas; are ALL wrong-headed. Instead of 'stealing' a Great Idea, a bight businessman would say to the Inventor: "We will treat you fairly and remand all royalties to your account! "We ask You to return to your Laboratory and Invent more devices!"

Roy J Stewart,
Phoenix AZ
P.S. There is No Free Lunch . . . someone pays for all that is produced and consumed!
PP. S. Socialists are not concerned with Your Freedom, they are devoted to Power, Control, Subjugation, Domination!
PPP. S. 'Socialism', that does work: Is Helping your neighbor!
dtxx
3.6 / 5 (5) Jul 22, 2012
Excellent.

The Capitalist Constraints on education are vanishing and soon a good Liberal education will be the right of every person on earth.


Maybe they will offer a course on proper nouns and capitalization that you can take!
Squirrel
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 22, 2012
I went to one of these "top" universities--the teaching is appalling. What makes elite universities elite is selecting the creme de creme of students--it is not degrees they offer but this chance to get a superior network of connects that gives such universities their advantage.

Can online courses replicate that? Just possibly if it marries up with facebook-like social networking.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2012
It's important to measure the effectiveness of these alternative learning techniques. Compare them to the traditional university system, the teaching system we are most familiar with. Some sort of accreditation system is needed. Otherwise, from the perspective of gaining employment, not a useful endeavor.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jul 23, 2012
Making these materials available is a great.

Think of all the people in countries where going to university isn't affordable (or even too far away if mobility isn not an option).
E.g. India has a big market in cell phones. If kids in remote villages with adequate cell phone reception can get vido lectures on them then that's an incredible step forward.

The 'Tools' and technology, employed in acquiring a 'Free Online Education' are ALL produced by Capitalists!

You mean like the internet and the Worls Wide Web? Nope. Both are the product of government funding (i.e. socialist policies).
Deathclock
2.7 / 5 (3) Jul 23, 2012
I've been using MIT's OCW (open courseware) system for years now, glad to see others following suit.
El_Nose
3 / 5 (2) Jul 23, 2012
You need an accreditation board to make this worth while -- you need real tracking -- yeah you can take a class to better yourself but what is the point if it not a real class worth value toward a degree?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) Jul 23, 2012
They say that you can have completion certificates.

For real degrees you'd probably have to set up something that online universities already employ: central testing sites. So you go to one of these cites and take tests on the coursework once a semester - and if you complete enough courses you get your degree. This would be far less costly than setting up universities everywhere.

yeah you can take a class to better yourself but what is the point

The point is to better yourself. At some point in your life you will understand that learning is not about getting grades.
machinephilosophy
5 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2012
Private certification of knowledge will replace all the institutions, and they know it's coming. Verified knowledge will obsolete the closed-shop legitimation sham.
El_Nose
5 / 5 (2) Jul 24, 2012
real universities do not use central testing sites for a class -- they use the class itself -- online classes test you online --

the issue is that a third party verifing that your educational stream is on par with everyone else in the country give you credibility. Thus accreditation boards review programs at all universities and guarantee that if you go to Harvard or a local university you get at least the same basic education. : and you can give me a 1 again if you like
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Jul 24, 2012
real universities do not use central testing sites for a class -- they use the class itself

I beg to differ. As an example I give you:
Fernuniversität Haagen
http://en.wikiped...4t_Hagen
which has been in operation since 1974

It's a real (and very successful) University that uses testing (and tutorial) centers and in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Russia and Latvia.
You can do batchelor, master PhD or even your habilitation there and it's worth is equivalent to doing it anywhere else.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.5 / 5 (2) Jul 24, 2012
You mean all those open source Linux developers are capitalists?

All those open source browsers are produced by capitalists?

The internet isn't a government creation?

The professors who's courses are available aren't working for the evils gubderment?

Etc. Etc.. Etc...

"The 'Tools' and technology, employed in acquiring a 'Free Online Education' are ALL produced by Capitalists!" - Irisq

Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (1) Jul 24, 2012

"yeah you can take a class to better yourself but what is the point if it not a real class worth value toward a degree?" - Doesn't nose.

"you can take a class to better yourself"

The child doesn't even remember what he has written earlier in the sentence.
El_Nose
5 / 5 (1) Jul 26, 2012
You can do batchelor, master PhD or even your habilitation there and it's worth is equivalent to doing it anywhere else.


...except the United States

I am not even trying to be snarky or defeating to your comment. People getting degrees in other coutries suffer when coming to the US because of the elitism here. On campus one year the student paper wrote an article about how many of the Indic students ( students from the country of India ) had advanced degrees in thier own countries... A disproportionate many of them were doctors and were in the US seeking a different degree, in a different field - simply based on that none of their credits transferred. To which many of us US students wondered, if they knew the material already why not sit through the classes again and get straight A's? I still question why they did not do this.

Please understand I am not trying to belittle Fernuniversität Haagen I am sure it is a very capable educational platform. The US is just very elite
El_Nose
5 / 5 (1) Jul 26, 2012
And let me clarify - this educational elitism is only in higher education -- our primary and secondary educational system here suck, they are terrible. But post secondary education the system takes off and discourages credit transferal smaller than an entire degree class such as Associates, Bachelors, Masters, PhD. And that transfer must be from another US based school.

It's flawed I know.