Have you always wanted to learn more about algorithms, but don’t have the time or money to enroll in a college course? What about technology entrepreneurship or programming languages? You are in luck! Thanks to a new trend, free online courses (that do not count for credit or towards a degree) on these topics and more are being developed and taught by faculty from leading universities such as Standford, MIT and the University of Michigan. I’m signed up to take a 6-week course on Cryptology starting March, 12. I have a feeling I’m in over my head, but I figure it is worth giving a try since it is free and won’t appear on my transcript.
Class Central maintains a list of the courses offered through Coursea, MITx, and Udacity. They mostly cover topics in computer science or engineering and last 5-12 weeks. They have video lectures, homework, online forums for asking questions, and can have upwards of 1,000 students from all over the world. Only a few of the courses require prior knowledge on the subject, and many are being offered in conjunction with paid, for credit, on-campus classes.
Not interested in computer science? There are also many free online courses for those who are interested in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. The Online Education Database lists 200 free online courses by subject. Unlike the Class Central courses which have a set schedule and instructor interaction, most of these courses simply provide content for students to peruse and complete on their own time. These are just a few of the many free courses available. Try searching online if you don’t see the topic you are interested in.
Universities are offering their content for free in part to address the incredibly high costs of higher education, but also to encourage life long learning. The interactive format is a new experiment in online learning, and I hope it is successful. I’m really excited to have the chance to take a high-quality course on a topic that I find interesting, but not interesting enough to spend thousands of dollars on a full university course.