The universities won’t just be posting lectures online like MIT’s OpenCourseWare project, Yale’s Open Yale Courses and the University of California at Berkeley’s Webcast. Rather, courses will require deadlines, evaluations, discussions and, in some cases, a statement of achievement.
“The technology as well as the sociology have finally matured to the point where we are ready for this,” says Daphne Koller, a co-founder of Coursera, the for-profit platform classes will run on.
Coursera grew out of an experiment in Stanford’s computer science department that opened up a handful of classes to non-Stanford students via the Internet. The online students received a signed letter from the instructor (but no credit) upon completion.
Stanford professors are not the only group pushing the limits of free, virtual education. University of the People, for instance, enrolls more than a thousand students in 115 different countries in its free degree programs. For-profit learning site Udemy has recruited professors from universities such as Stanford, Yale, Northwestern and Dartmouth to teach video-based courses on its free platform.
MIT announced its plans for online courses in December and launched its first class this March.
A startup called 2tor has helped universities such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Southern California monetize their virtual classrooms. Those programs grant degrees, but limit class size and charge standard tuition.
“It opens doors to people who wouldn’t have had them opened otherwise,” Koller says. “Education is a real equalizer, even if it doesn’t come with a degree attached to it.”
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