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free online courses

Free online courses

Many top-ranked universities are now offering online courses for free to the general public, reports a recent New York Times article, “Universities Reshaping Education on the Web” and a U.S. News article, “More Universities Join Free Online Education Provider.”

Coursera, a company that provides online courses from top universities, is bulking up its list of participating schools and course listings. These new updates will bring the total to 16 universities and approximately 100 massive open online courses, also known as MOOCs.

Participating U.S. schools include Princeton, Stanford, Duke, UVA, University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania. New international schools have been added to the list as well, including the University of Edinburgh (Scotland), the University of Toronto (Canada), and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (Switzerland).

Coursera has received enrollment from users in 190 countries and many of its courses have subtitles in different languages.

As of now, the universities do not offer credits for their MOOCs, but some plan on changing that policy in the coming years. The courses provide online material, video segments, quizzes, online forums, and other activities. Some issues still need to be ironed out such as how to control cheating and to successfully implement peer grading.

The number of students participating in this experimental online learning is staggering. Scott E. Page, a Coursera/U. of Michigan professor who teaches model thinking, had 40,000 students download his videos. “By most calculations, I had about 200 years’ worth of students in my class,” he said of the phenomenon.

There are other companies similar to Coursera that plan on partnering with top schools and launching their own free online courses.

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