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Online education, massive and free

Sam Chada • Jul 10, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Have you ever wanted to learn more about Game Theory, Introduction to Python, or even the Science of Gastronomy? What if I told you that these college level courses are available for you to participate in, for free, and provides a certificate of completion from the instructor once finished? Although there has been access to free online courses on the Internet, the quality and quantity of courses has changed over the past couple of years. Most recently, MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses, have surfaced as popular yet convenient ways to audit classes of particular interests from elite universities such as Duke, Harvard, and Princeton.

As defined by Wikipedia, a MOOC is “… an online course aiming at large-scale participation and open access via the web.” MOOCs were established as free online classes complete with course syllabi, audio and video lectures, activities and projects, quizzes, and recommended reading lists, for no college credit, but offered by experts from reputable universities and colleges in their own fields (mostly science, technology, engineering, and math [STEM]).

In late autumn 2012, the New York Times declared 2012 as the “Year of the MOOC” and MOOCs have continued to rise in popularity ever since. MOOC providers such as Coursera, EdX and Udacity have risen to the top of the list due to the major universities supporting and contributing course content to the MOOC movement. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are flocking to these sites to enroll in courses for a variety of reasons – improved resumes, career advancement, or just for knowledge expansion.

Here’s a quick rundown of the top MOOC providers:

Coursea - Through Coursera, you can choose from over a hundred massively open online courses for free. Coursea offers courses in a wide range of topics, spanning the Humanities, Medicine, Biology, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Business, Computer Science and many others.

EdX - EdX is a non-profit organization created by founding partners Harvard and MIT. EdX offers MOOCs and interactive online classes in subjects including law, history, science, engineering, business, social sciences, computer science, public health and artificial intelligence (AI).

Udacity - Udacity was born out of a Stanford University experiment in which Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig offered their "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" course online to anyone, for free. Udacity is a unique collection of MOOCs, mostly related to computers and robotics.

Of course, the library offers both in-person and online classes. We have been specializing in basic computer classes, Microsoft Office, and social media here at the library. Through LearningExpressLibrary, an online learning center made available through CLEVNET, they offer courses in GED preparation, workplace skills improvement, occupation practice tests, popular software tutorials and much more.

So my question – what if the library created a cohort of some sort to help encourage completion of a MOOC or perhaps a collaborative learning environment with resources to help you succeed. Would you participate?

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