A decade ago it was virtually impossible to attain higher education without getting an invitation from the Joint Admission Board (JAB). This was a preserve of the academic crème de la crème and you only got to study what you were admitted for. The introduction of parallel programmes opened more opportunities for students to pursue higher education.
But the web and mobile tools for online learning are now revolutionizing how students are learning and how lecturers and tutors deliver content. Long-distance learning and on-line classes are allowing students acquire degrees and certificates from universities abroad without leaving the country and the comfort of their homes.
They represent a new learning model which is easily accessible and many a times free. The quality of the courses is at par with mainstream universities with most of the lectures being provided by lecturers in the same universities.
Leading in this pack of change are the Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC’s) which we are going to explore. It’s not certain whether MOOC’s are the future of education as we know it but they are attracting a massive following. The change they are providing is slowly causing a stir in the higher education echelons.
Khan Academy aims to provide free world class education to anyone everywhere. It has over 3400 videos which cover math, biology, chemistry, physics and even humanities. It was created in 2007 by Benghali-American educator, Salman Khan. A graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School. In addition to the video library, khan Academy has automated exercises with continuous assessment. It offers peer-to-peer tutoring based on objective data collected by the system, a process that will be projected in the future.
Google Code University
An initiative of the tech giant Google, GCU provides free computer programming lessons on the internet. The website features tutorials and introductions that have no prerequisites. It also has recorded video lectures and talks as well as courses with problem sets and exercises. GCU encourages professors who want to share their courses worldwide to submit them on the site.
Another free platform which mostly offers computer based courses offered by university instructors. Students can enroll in one or more courses after a course is launched. Lectures are available upon enrolment and can be completed at the student’s preferred pace. Students receive a certificate of completion indicating their level of achievement. Udacity has the advantage of linking up its graduates with potential employers.
An initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to put all of the educational materials from its undergraduate courses online, partly free and openly available to anyone, anywhere. The project was conceived in October 2002. According to Wikipedia, 2080 courses were available online as on November 2011. The initiative has been a great motivation to other learning institutions to provide their courses online.
Coursera partners with top universities such as Princeton, Stanford University, and University of Michigan to offer free online courses for anyone. Conceived at nearly the same time with Udacity, Coursera seeks to establish a pedagogy method of learning to help students master courses quickly and effectively. The websites provides courses in Computer Science, Medicine, Biology, humanities and social sciences among others. Courses include video lectures on different topics and assignments to be submitted usually on weekly basis. Currently there are more than 100 courses on offer at Coursera.
The above are not the only available MOOC’s. There are plenty of others out there exploring different methods of online learning demonstrating that you don’t have to be in class to learn.