Top US universities have started offering free online courses and certificates, challenging the expensive on-campus way of studying and allowing international students to get US education straight from their computers.
Universities including Stanford, Princeton and Columbia, are signing on with new online venture Coursera with classes varying from Finance through to Sociology and Statistics – all of the online classes are taught by the universities’ teachers.
The project is still to overcome some scepticism about the quality of online education as: “doors are wide open for cheating,” said Michael Winckler mathematician at Heidelberg University.
At the same time MIT, Harvard and University of California, and Berkeley are uniting and offering online courses under a non-profit venture called edX.
Enrolling more students through MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) may cut costs by enabling universities to outsource coursework on the internet, while fewer students would need campus housing.
However, instead of college credits, the students enrolled on the online classes receive certificates of completion, which do not lead to a degree.
University of Washington is the first US school to provide credits using a MOOC learning platform – for a fee.
Could this initiative change the face of the contemporary education? Anant Agarwal, president of edX called it “the single biggest change in education since the printing press”.
The enthusiasm about the free prestigious online courses is not in question. Over 1.7 million people have already signed up for Coursera.