Take Ivy League online classes for FREE

Thanks to this Rappler post, we got wind of a New York Times article showing how Ivy League schools are now catching up with the online education trend–and offering classes for FREE.

According to writer Richard Pérez-Peña, some of the United States’ top universities have signed on with online platform Coursera to offer what is known as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Pérez-Peña says  these schools “still must overcome some skepticism about the quality of online education and the prospects for having the courses cover the costs of producing them, but their enthusiasm is undimmed.”

Some of the institutions that have started using Coursera to offer free online classes include: the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, Princeton University, and even the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, among others.

Other universities and platforms mentioned in the article include Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MITx, and the Harvard University-MITx collaborative venture, edX.

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As soon as I saw the post, I decided to take the platforms out for a test drive.

CMU’s OLI featured a number of interesting subjects mostly within the Maths and Sciences. Fortunately, there were also Elementary French I and II, a subject I had always wanted to take but could’t because of conflicting schedules, so I signed up for Elementary French I.

Screen cap of current course categories in Carnegie Mellon University's Open Learning Initiative (as of July 2012) | Click on the image to visit the CMU-OLI website
Screen cap of current course categories in Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative (as of July 2012) | Click on the image to visit the CMU-OLI website

Coursera had a wider range of classes, including courses in the humanities and social sciences such as “Listening to World Music” and “Modern and Contemporary American Poetry“, cool classes in computing and technology such as “Gamification” and “Control of Mobile Robots“, and even some business fundamentals such as “An Introduction to Operations Management” and “Introduction to Finance.”

Screen cap of course summary in Coursera.org (as of July 2012) | Click on the image to visit the Coursera website
Screen cap of course summary in Coursera.org (as of July 2012) | Click on the image to visit the Coursera website

I pretty much had a public “geekgasm” and went spreading the word all over Twitter and Facebook. Within minutes, friends had also logged on and had chosen the courses that they felt were best for them.

My own picks  from within the Coursera platform were as follows:

(I can tell how exciting my September is going to get!)

What I loved about this is how I was able to combine both professional and personal interests and choose topics that I didn’t have to take for work, but just really, really enjoyed (such as French, world music, and poetry). It brought me back to the good ol’ days of college, when Electives were taken not just to beef up one’s CV but, really, to immerse in subjects that made you excited to learn. (My own electives back in college: Screenplay Writing, Intro to Drama, Rizal as a European Author, and Spanish Literature. Quite an eclectic mix!)

Best of all, they’re from great universities–and they’re free.

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 Another great thing about this model, I think, is the prospect of exploring various models to enhance your own learning experience. For “Securing Digital Democracy”, for instance, I know of two other friends who have signed up, so we’ve committed to becoming virtual “classmates” by comparing notes, engaging in face-to-face online discussions, and putting up insights and analyses on the Web so that others can comment and discuss with us. With access to the World Wide Web, anything is really possible these days.

I’ll discuss in another post a Twitter thread that emerged from this–that is, the possibility of using this model and translating it to the offline world to revolutionize public school education in the Philippines. In the meantime, check out these really cool platforms, sign up for a few free classes of your own, and let the brain food-fun begin. 🙂