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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Free Online Courses for All: An Effective and Sustainable Education Model? by Kaitlin Louie

Massive open online courses (MOOCs), which are internet-based classes available to the global public, have received a great amount of publicity in recent months, and with good reason.

Photo: City Town Info Education Channel

These online educational services have garnered millions of followers, as well as donations and venture capitalist funding in some cases. They have also begun to reshape the models of both online and in-person education through their ability to build a worldwide community of web-based learners.

Examples of MOOC providers include companies such as Coursera and Udacity, as well as online universities like the University of the People. Coursera offers free classes from campus-based institutions such as Stanford, Princeton, Penn, and Johns Hopkins.

“We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions,” it declares on its website. Udacity is an online education provider that focuses on technology and science-related courses. The organization states that its students “learn by solving challenging problems and pursuing udacious projects with world-renowned university instructors (not by watching long, boring lectures).”

The University of the People is an institution whose aim is to be “the world’s first tuition-free university dedicated to the democratization of higher education.” These and other MOOC-providing organizations are having a profound impact on how both students and educators approach the methods and accessibility of higher education. reports that Coursera is shifting the online course model from a standard lecture series to a more interactive experience for students. Instead of providing traditional, uninterrupted videos of professors’ lectures, Coursera has broken up these lectures into 10-minute segments, and requires its students to pass a quiz before moving on to the next section.

Internet-based classes also enable educators to gather valuable information about students’ learning styles and practices. For example, MOOC professors can now see what sections of their lecture students had to rewind most frequently, as well as quiz questions that were commonly answered incorrectly, in order to make corresponding improvements in their lectures and course materials.

City Town Info Education Channel

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