It seems that 2012 was the Year of the MOOC. MOOCs, for the uninitiated, are not the furry woodland creatures that (I think) they sound like. They are massive open online courses, and they are more popular now than ever. Millions of students have already taken advantage of these free classes from premier universities around the world.
Many have been quick to dismiss MOOCs, insisting that the university model is still the best source of a well-rounded education. But these brush-offs miss the point. MOOCs aren’t a one-to-one replacement of a university education, but they serve as excellent educational supplements. For those looking to master a specific skill set for a resume boost, MOOCs are a godsend. Here are four fantastic sites that offer world-class courses that won’t cost you a penny.
Developed by Stanford University professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, Coursera offers online courses from top universities around the world in all manner of subjects. From sciences and humanities to computer progamming and design, this site has its academic bases covered. Coursera is an ongoing experiment in pedagogical theory, and its developers are constantly working to ensure that students are actually coming away from their classes with the skills and information they sought to attain.
The four blokes behind Udacity.com are interested in democratizing higher education. Focused primarily on computer programming and the sciences, Udacity.com’s classes are also free, and have already been discovered by students across the world. The courses are tiered from beginner to advanced, giving structure to students’ progression through the classes.
Edx.org is the brainchild of Harvard University and MIT. Not a bad pedigree, right? This site is as interested in offering free classes to students around the world as it is in studying the way that online education works. You can sign up for classes by university or eclectically, with options set to include Berkeley, Wellesley, and Georgetown in 2013.
For some concentrations, these courses would obviously not hold a candle to face-to-face instruction. The fine and performing arts, for example, seem beyond the reach of online courses (but maybe that's just my former drama major speaking). But for practical skills like programming, these classes could be a huge boon to students around the world.