Free Ivy League online courses

With a struggling economy looming over our heads like a grey cloud of depression- constantly reminding us of the economic woes that hold us back- it has become very difficult for many to pay for college classes and obtain the knowledge needed for self-betterment. But, hope is flickering through the grey clouds of economic calamities as people are now able to obtain knowledge through online courses from world-renowned universities for free. Get up and give a round of applause for a new virtual revolution that is bringing knowledge to the world. Coursera is a social entrepreneurship company, founded in the autumn of 2011, that hosts 195 free online courses from 33 elite universities from around the world, including Stanford, Princeton, Caltech, Duke, Brown, and other top schools. This organization allows students to pick online courses from 18 different categories, taught by world-class professors, without paying the ridiculous  fees associated with top universities.

Coursera’s founders, Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, came up with this experiment after Ng taught a free online class that enrolled more than 100,000 students. Their goal is to make it easily accessible for everyone to take advantage of online courses, created by the top universities, and gain free knowledge.

According to the Coursera website, they “envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions.” It continues on that Coursera’s “technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.”

Ashley Robinson, a Santa Monica College student, sees many benefits from these free courses. “I’d get the knowledge I need. Isn’t that what we’re here for?” Indeed, a little extra knowledge cannot do anyone harm, but only advance us further in life.

But receiving free courses from an Ivy League school sounds a little too perfect, and skepticism is bound to take over the minds of those who can’t believe that something is given to them for free. It’s an opportunity many would want to take advantage of and with the many seats available, it is possible for many to get the chance to learn for free. So what’s the catch, and how does this program work?

In these online courses, students watch videos, participate in discussions, turn in homework, and take quizzes online.  After completing a course, students receive a non-credit certificate from their professors.  The catch is that students won’t receive a degree from these courses, but they will benefit  by learning from elite institutions.

Some professors will allow the certificate of completion for college credit at the college the students attend. This past fall, the University of Washington was offering college credit through Coursera and some others are doing the same. Another benefit from taking these free classes is that it looks really good on a resume. Perhaps, the knowledge received from the top universities will give people the extra nudge to get the job they desire.

There are students who believe that online learning can be more difficult than the face-to-face experiences they receive in a classroom. On-campus college experiences don’t compare to a virtual one, but when faced with difficulties of being able to attend an on-campus class, then an online class is a good choice; especially when it’s free. Coursera is constantly improving ways to make it easier for students to learn and adding more courses for them to choose from. It also offers translators, so not only English speaking students can utilize this system, but students from all over world.

By offering people from all over the world the opportunity to learn from top universities- they could only imagine attending- can transform the mission and model of higher education.  Everyone should have the right to be just as educated as the next guy or girl, and free online courses are a great option. These programs have already been reshaping how colleges approach teaching and an individual’s drive to learn.

Imagine a world with equal education for all. As Daphne Koller put it in her speech, “amazing talent could be found anywhere. Maybe the next Albert Einstein or the next Steve Jobs is living somewhere in a remote village in Africa.”