Coursera lets anyone go to college for free, from home
Coursera describes itself on its “About” page:
We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.
Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.
I’m one of those select few who had access to a world-class education, having gone to a very fine public university. And I’m still flipping over the possibilities at Coursera.
I’m not really going to quit my job, but I’ve spent most of the last dozen years or so, the time I’ve been acutely interested in the statistical revolution in baseball and other sports, wishing I’d taken that statistics class many of my college friends struggled with. Poor old econ majors, I used to think. Now I envy their facility with spreadsheets as I try to study some arcane baseball question.
So maybe I’ll take a stats class from Princeton, or one called Passion-driven Stats at Wesleyan. “In this project-based course,” the latter class description reads, “you will have the opportunity to answer a question that you feel passionately about through independent research based on existing data.”
Pre-requisites? “No background required. All are welcome.” That’s pretty standard for many of the courses listed at Coursera, of which there are 208 in progress or starting in the next few months, the website says. A similar site, EdX, has nine courses, with many more promised soon from Harvard, MIT, Georgetown, Wellesley, and the universities of Texas and California.
A lot of the courses available at Coursera are great for what college is great for: broadening your mind. History of the world since 1300, anyone? Back to Princeton we go. How does music work? Teach us, University of Florida.
But a lot of them also offer practical knowledge for professionals and aspirants, such as people in, just to pull one out of the hat, the sports media racket. Consider a pair of courses at Duke, opinion-piece writers: Sports and Society and How to Reason and Argue.
And here’s one at the University of Maryland that journalism pros—including veterans of one day—can benefit from: Surviving Disruptive Technologies.
I’m off to college, ma. Boola boola.
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Photo credit: Some dude who needs to take a photography class.