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Accessible (and affordable) learning: universities offer free online courses, known as MOOCs, have enrolled millions of students around the world. What about you?

Preparing for high academic expectations at Universities

The New York Times has an article online describing the importance of such courses in the US due to the gap in the relative 'low educational level' from basic education and the jump to a much higher academic level at universities. This gap has revealed a time and expense issues that new students attending universities have to cope with.

Excerpt from NYT article:

"Nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States arrive on campus needing remedial work before they can begin regular credit-bearing classes. That early detour can be costly, leading many to drop out, often in heavy debt and with diminished prospects of finding a job."

"… to reach students who are not ready for college-level work, or struggling with introductory courses, universities are beginning to add extra supports to the online materials, in hopes of improving success rates."

What is a MOOC?
MOOC stands for a Massive Open Online Course.
It is an online course aimed at large-scale participation and open (free) access via the internet.
Courses are similar to university courses, but do not tend to offer academic credit.
A number of web-based platforms (initiatives) supported by top universities and colleges offer MOOCs in a wide range of subjects.

Higher Education Affordable and Accessible for Everybody

Whereas in large parts of the world higher education is attainable for any well qualified student, regardless his/her family's affluence, in America, even though America's spirit claims 'equal opportunity, in America higher education is strongly dependent on affluency rather than qualification, it became a privilege for the few. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) are open to attend without any fees except most MOOCs offer students also to sign up for attaining a certificate which would have some fee attached. Yet those fees are minimal, and think about, things become cheaper when they are shared by many. The per-student cost of a course run for 100,000 students is massively cheaper than the per-student cost of a course run for 100 students.

Furthermore there are cultural barriers in many countries in regard to women attending universities or any higher education. MOOCs make it possible regardless of gender and/or social stigma.

And there is the barrier of localization, MOOCs solve that friction of geographic distance and the limitations of attending a far away university. In addition universities have a limitation of students seats, and by attending classes online that problem of limitation is resolved.

The adventure of learning

Opening our horizons, vision, knowledge and understanding can also be a great adventure in life, as well as a creative process. It seems that, and in fact evidence indicates that, as we experience life, over time, we become increasingly confident in our world view. This may be due to how we settle into our lifestyles, with our friends, our community, or beliefs. The knowledge we gain along the way can easily follow a particular bias rather than remain open to where we may be wrong in our world views. This certainty and confidence may actually get in the way of learning more about how our world works, how our world is.

Such confirmation bias may even lead to a certain coziness and a loss of interest in investigating and searching for knowledge and enlightenment about our world and society. Bias can prevent us from seeing our social environment and the World as it is since many tend to see the world through the glasses we shaped for ourselves through the limits or our interactions with the world – the beliefs we proudly attained through our experiences?

Think about the thrill of watching a fantastic movie, or exploring another world or culture! What about the thrill and adventure of immersing oneself into a new and bigger world through learning! It's like being part of a reality show because the stuff we learn will change the way we see ourselves and the world – and as the saying goes 'opening your horizon'. The best part of this adventure is that you are the star!

Online Resources

Thanks to modern communication technology we now have the possibility to study online regardless of our location and personal situation:

Coursera.org – Education for Everyone

Coursera.org is an online platform that offers courses from universities for free. Coursera is steadily expanding its partners, they offer an expansive range of courses delivered from an impressive range of famous universities, e.g. UCSD (University of San Diego), UCSF, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Yale, and many more universities from around the world, e.g. University of Geneva, University of British Columbia – the list is long!

Free online courses

The range of courses is wide, there is a filter option to select from categories such as (to list just a few):

  • Arts
  • Biology & Life Sciences
  • Business & Management
  • Chemistry...
  • ...Physics
  • Social Sciences
  • Statistics and Data Analysis

Obtaining a Certificate

Coursera also offers courses with a "Signature Track":
"Signature Track is a new option that offers you the chance to earn a Verified Certificate for completing an eligible course like this one. Signature Track securely links your coursework to your real identity, allowing you to confidently show the world what you have achieved on Coursera."

Coursera Community Online and Offline

Worldwide Cursera (free online courses) Meetups

When taking a class, you are offered to participate in a large, diverse and lively participants forum. And Cousera's participants are active beyond the virtual online world, there are over 1,500 cities listed on Meetup where "Courserians" can get together in real world.

Worldwide Cursera (free online courses) Meetups

 

futurelearn.com – Learning For Life

Offering high quality free courses from a range of topics: from Science & Technology to Arts & Humanities, from Body & Mind to Business & Management. Educators from top UK and international universities have created videos, articles and quizzes to inspire, and will lead discussions and debates.

https://www.futurelearn.com/

FutreLearn – Learning for Life

 

edX.org

https://www.edx.org/ is a nonprofit online provider with an expanding offer from many universities:

edX Universities

 

The Open University

Though the UK based Open University is not free, it is a great university for distance learning if you look for committed studies and plan to achieve an official Masters degree. Studies are not free nor cheep but because "The Open University is incorporated by Royal Charter (RC 000391), an exempt charity in England & Wales and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 038302)", studying with the Open University is relatively affordable! But what I like most about the OU is their course material. The course material is contemporary, excellent, first-class and makes you certainly change the way you thought about many issues. Plus besides the content that is great the OU does a fantastic job on teaching academic essay writing, correct referencing, learning to analyze statistics, analyzing and evaluating sources, building an argument etc.

And the Open University has also a section of free and interesting material to dive into at their "Open Learn" section:

http://www.open.edu/openlearn/about-openlearn/try

Open University, free courses at OpenLearn

Article By: H. M. Reisman

Anything to add? Additional input welcome!

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