DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Mar 22 2013

Massively Educational

by Jimmy L

edXA few months ago I took a course taught by a University of Pennsylvannia professor. Although the class had over 28,000 students, I often received personal answers to my questions from one of the many TAs (teacher’s assistants) and occasionally even from the professor himself. My classmates were smart and discussions were lively. The assignments and quizzes were illuminating. I didn’t have to jump through any hoops or prerequisites to enroll, and best of all, I paid nothing for it.

You may already know where I’m going with this since you may have already heard of MOOCs before (or taken one, even). MOOCs, which stands for Massive Open Online Courses, are becoming increasingly popular these days, and although there are some differences, most MOOC sites offer high quality university level education for free on a huge range of subjects.

If you’re interested in MOOCs, there are several currently offering interesting classes:

Coursera — Although the website is .org, Coursera is actually a for-profit company with an idealistic view of free education for all. (I’m not sure how they plan to make money in the future, but for now the classes are free). It is among the largest of the MOOCs and currently offers classes from computer security, economics, ancient Greece, and property and liability law (just to name a few).

Udacity — born out of Stanford University in 2011, Udacity quickly grew to be a platform for free online courses. Currently they are offering courses on statistics, computer science, physics, building a startup business, and many others.

edX — unlike Coursera or Udacity, edX is a not-for-profit enterprise. Founded by MIT and Harvard University in the Fall of 2012, they have plans of making their learning platform an open-source solution that other educational institutions may use for their courses. Currently they are offering courses on biology, quantum mechanics, computer graphics, copyright law, and many more.

Each one of these MOOCs operates differently, and each course is also run differently, depending on the professor’s style, so it would be wise to read up on their policies before enrolling. Although MOOCs sometimes offer certificates upon completion, these are still not universally recognized. For a much longer list of MOOCs and other online educational websites, please check out this post.

Have you taken a MOOC or plan to? What are your experiences with them?

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