By Lillian Williams
If you haven’t checked out Stanford University’s free online courses, do so. This offering is another example of a growing movement in education: the effort to make learning more accessible.
For example, you might be surprised to learn that Stanford courses such as Machine Learning, Introduction to Artificial intellegience, and Introduction to Databases, were offered free of charge in an online format.
If you’re considering such courses, make no mistake about it: These free online offerings do not carry college credit, but they do offer valuable content.
And, Stanford is not alone in this effort. Other entities such as California-based Khan Academy, for example, offer free online tutorials on topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics. Other institutions of higher education, such as MIT, offer free online classes.
Steve Henn of National Pubic Radio takes you right onto Stanford’s campus in a January 23 NPR story about this issue. Professors, including computer expert Daphne Koller, discussed their mission to expand the reach of education to people around the globe.
“On the long-term, I think the potential for this to revolutionize education is just tremendous,” said Koller, a MacArthur Genius Fellow.
The context and background of this move to offer free, online schooling was explained in Henn’s five minute NPR story. Technological advances have enabled this movement.
In the NPR story, Henn reports on Koller’s prediction that one day computer-based technology will allow instructors to teach a class of 100,000 students as inexpensively as a class of 100 students.
In that NPR report, Koller also described what happened in South Africa as prospective students clamored to register for classes at a university there.
“In the University of Johannesburg, a few weeks ago, they had a very small number of places that were still open,” Koller said. “And so, there were thousands of people parked outside the gates, sitting there for the gates to open, so they could be first in line to register for that limited number of slots. And when the gates opened there was a stampede.”
By throwing open the doors to education “we hope to give more learning, job and advancement opportunities to anyone who wants them,” said Jennifer Widom, chair of the Computer Science Department at Stanford, in a university press statement.