Oct. 2, 2012 10:45 a.m.

Anyone can obtain prestigious online education

Massive and Open Online Courses (MOOC) are the newest phenomenon in online education; the best part is these are free.

So, what are they? These are, as the name implies, free online courses available to anyone taught by professors and instructors from prestigious universities around the country. The courses are not designed for degree programs, but students can receive certificates to further their education.

Currently, I have found only three such sites, but this MOOC movement is still pretty new, so I am certain more will follow.


A MOOC for computer wizards built by computer wizards

Udacity.com, was founded by Sebastian Thrun, a former professor at Stanford, chief executive officer and professor of Udacity; Mike Sokolosky, chief technology officer; David Stavens, president and chief operating officer of Udacity, and David Evans, vice president of education and professor at Udacity. The site’s About Section noted, ”We believe university-level education can be both high quality and low cost.“

Currently, Udacity offers 13 courses; after the completion of a course students receive a certificate. The certification of the achieved skill is tied to a fee, though. These courses are mostly in the computer science area with a few math, statistics and physics courses. So, if you are a computer wizard, this might be the MOOC for you.


Long-standing collaboration forges new horizons

EdX.org, a collaboration of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, EdX was recently joined by the University of California, Berkley. EdX described itself as a “not-for-profit enterprise” with the goal of connecting a diverse community of students with teachers as diverse as its target students. EdX is more than just a new way of online education. It is also a research tool for universities to refine their teaching online and in the classroom through a medium that constantly reinvents itself and connects millions of people.

Currently, EdX offers seven courses, which have different start dates throughout the fall. These courses are in the field of chemistry, computer science, health, electronics and artificial intelligence.


The biggest of the MOOCs

Coursera.org, is currently the biggest of the MOOC providers.

The “About Us” section of Coursera said: “We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions.”

The website also said, “Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.”

Coursera offers 124 courses taught by professors from different universities all over the globe. Those schools include California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Technology, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology Delhi, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, Rice University, Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, University of California San Francisco, University of Edinburgh, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Toronto, University of Virginia, University of Washington and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Coursera has the broadest range of fields of study, which, in return, is a reflection of the numerous universities tied into this MOOC.

The choice is yours

Udacity and EdX may be the small contenders in the battle of the MOOCs, but currently they are catering to the students and the courses they know best and have the staff to support their cause. While it may seem they are playing it safe, I think they are playing the field smartly because it is always better to start small and go with what you know than to crash and burn.

Coursera is the biggest and most impressive of the MOOCs. If you are a student like me, you are far from being able to afford even one single course at a prestigious university like Princeton. Coursera gives students the chance to take classes from professors at large universities and further their horizon without emptying your wallet.

Overall, they all have the same goal: bring university-level education to all possible students around the globe for free. The kind of university education you receive should not depend on your bank account but on your intelligence and your educational drive.

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