If you are someone seeking to further your education but lacking the means since you would need to take a hit on your pocketbook, there is now a good opportunity to do so in the form of a “Massive Open Online Course”. What, you say?
Let me introduce Coursera.org, a social entrepreneurship company that has managed to do what previous similar efforts stopped short of – bring together a consortium of universities willing to participate in providing courses for free over the internet, with most of these also issuing certificates as well (the certs need a modest payment now).
In the past, there have been attempts to put out material via the internet, organized by certain institutions of higher learning, but these never really took off. Now however, Coursera has brought the concept of a “Massive Open Online Course” (MOOC) attended by tens or even hundreds of thousands all over the world, into practical reality, and appears to be succeeding.
The value of these courses lies not so much in whether the certificates have value (this is up to an employer to appraise), but rather in the opportunity for learning (ala long distance, as the lecturers present their lessons via video recording), and enhancing yourself.
As someone who did participate in two of the courses last year, I can with certainty say that the exams and quality of the courses offered are of high standard, and not something to be sneezed at. In fact, most of the weekly assignments are pretty challenging, as long as one genuinely attempts them after sitting through the video lectures.
Right now, there are hundreds of courses being offered from scores of (mainly) US universities, and close to 3.2 million students enrolled from all over the globe (up from 1.5 million only last year).
If you have little spare time and don’t fancy reading, the video format of the Coursera courses should be more appealing, as you can always pause the videos if you need to take a break, and therefore – learn at your own pace. There are also usually no books to buy, although most lecturers will recommend certain titles for serious students to further explore. Each course has its own mini forum as well, where students can discuss questions and answers and get help.
In summary, I can’t think of a more fantastic concept for an online learning experience as the one provided by Coursera, and I only hope it will continue to maintain its “free education” concept. So what are you waiting for? Just go ahead and pick a course of your liking, enroll, and start learning something today!
NB: Another invaluable site for online education is Khan Academy.