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Learn something - for free

April 18, 2012 - Art Smith
I just signed up to take a class this summer at the University of Michigan, the class, called internet history, technology and security will be taught by Charles Severance and will last six weeks. Big deal, right? Well the class is free and is one of hundreds that can be taken from some of the nation’s best universities.

The class is part of a project by a cooperative of world-class colleges that are offering real classes online for free. Students taking the classes will get a grade, but not credit, and will be able to learn from some of the best instructors in the field.

Over the past few years online learning has exploded both by actual colleges and universities that offer online versions of their classes for credit and by groups such as Apple that offer classes and lectures through iTunesU, which is part of its iTunes site. I’ve “taken” both a structure of the internet class from Stanford and an astronomy class from Ohio State via this site. iTunesU class are one directional though. No feedback, no assessments, you just learn by listening.

The class I signed up for is different. It’s part of a program by an association called Coursera to offer classes to people anywhere.

There are hundred of classes available from a wide range of instructors.

The schools include Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Michigan. The classes are real, students are tested and grades are given. You just can’t claim the credit. You will never get a degree taking classes this way, and I by no means think this could serve as a replacement to conventional colleges and universities.

For people who believe in lifelong learning, the program being held at may be just the ticket.


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