Options Abound for Free Online Education Programs

Posted: May 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm

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Students can explore new online education programs that offer free courses from prestigious universities.

In the past, students who aspired to attend a top-ranked university would need a high GPA, strong test scores, and the resources to fund an education.

Now, with video streaming tools, videoconferencing programs, and the ability to share and edit documents online, anyone with an Internet connection can gain access to college- and graduate-level education.

In recent years, universities have used the Web to post lectures online for users to watch at no cost. In 2006, Salman Khan created Khan Academy, a nonprofit education organization that posts YouTube "micro-lectures" on topics ranging from mathematics to art history.

[See how colleges have utilized YouTube.]

But still the public clamored for more organized online programs, notes Eren Bali, CEO and cofounder of Udemy, an online education provider.

"We realized that people are looking for structured content even though there are heaps of content available [online]," he says. "You need some guidance and a community."

For students interested in free online education programs, here are three that offer structured courses.

1. Coursera: Professors at Stanford University offered a series of free computer science courses online in fall 2011. Hundreds of thousands of students enrolled, far exceeding traditional enrollments, notes Andrew Ng, a cofounder of Coursera and a professor at Stanford who taught a machine learning course during the experiment.

"I normally teach a 400-student class," says Ng, who instructed more than 100,000 students through the online course. "To reach a comparable size audience, I'd have to teach my normal class for 250 years."

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Options Abound for Free Online Education Programs

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May 25th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

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