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University offers free online studies

Winnie Chong

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is offering free online education courses in partnership with some of the world’s top universities, such as Stanford and Princeton, from next year. The courses are being offered through Coursera, an educational technology company that first began offering free, online education to a dozen Stanford engineering classes in 2008.

Andrew Ng, an associate professor of computer science at Stanford, co-founded Coursera along with Daphne Koller, another Stanford professor. Ng said Coursera partners with 33 universities from around the world and makes a few of its courses available online free for a large audience. As of last month, around 1.7 million students from 196 countries had enrolled for at least one course.

“I want to live in a world where everyone has access to high-quality education,” Ng said.

“Education is not just for the privileged.”

Ng, who grew up in Hong Kong and Singapore but left when he was eight, said he knew some students from relatively less developed countries, such as China and India, may not be able to afford higher education. Coursera offers 199 courses spanning the humanities, medicine, biology, social sciences, mathematics, business, computer science and many others.

Most videos use English as the medium of instruction. But some have Chinese, Russian and French subtitles that are prepared by student volunteers. Each course takes four to 10 weeks to complete. Certificates are given to successful students. HKUST is the first university in Hong Kong to offer Coursera online programs.

Pong Ting-chuen, computer science and engineering department professor at HKUST, said online education allows students to form a global community. Ng added Coursera’s revenues come from certificates given to students and from employers who seek suitable students. (The Standard)

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