I have a strange hobby. I like to enroll myself into online courses. A lot of them, so much so that I have actually forgotten their count (I think it is 30 something now?). When you are on the internet, you can allow yourself these little comforts – and for previous two years, it has been a favorite way to spend my free time. So, needless to say, I am one classic example of the failure of MOOC programs :-P. But in all those ainda-pehle-se-sath-sath-parhna-hai moments, I still cannot help but feel grateful to all course materials available on the internet.
The wide range of courses being provided by some of the best institutes in the world is bound to have something of interest for everyone. Generally, the time required by these courses is around 4-5 hours per week.
Most of you might have heard of the “OpenCourseWare” already. The lectures provided under this movement are all free, openly available to anyone with an internet connection, and most of them are published as organized course materials.
It all started when a German university “University of Tübingen” published its videos of its lectures online (Thank you!) in 1999. Seems too early, right? That is because it didn’t catch any attention until MIT launched its MIT OpenCourseWare in 2002. Later, hundreds of universities joined in and made their lectures public in a number of forms: videos, notes, quiz formats, even student notes.
However, it wasn’t till 2011 that universities like Stanford and MIT started offering online courses which involved enrollment and deadlines. These courses are now being termed as MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and three of the biggest and most popular MOOC platforms are as follows:
It started off as MITx and later developed into edX when MITx partnered with HarvardX in 2012. It is owned and governed by MIT and Harvard and currently has around 60 courses offered by 29 partners (the XConsortium).
Udacity was born out of an experiment, when Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig decided to put their artificial intelligence class online in 2011. The class included around 170 students of theirs, with 100,000 more students following it online. Inspired by this huge response, the professors started this online platform in 2012. Now this site is offering around 30 courses from about 5 institutes.
Coursera is the largest of all these initiatives. It was started by two computer science professors at Stanford University, who noticed that their YouTube videos had many more views than the students who actually applied for their classes. An astounding 80 institutes are their partners in this program, who collectively offer more than 400 courses to 4 million students worldwide!
Although all course materials being provided are for free, some MOOC websites do provide you with a statement of accomplishment at the completion of your course, and some courses have an option of earning a verified certificate from the university for a nominal fee. The biggest question, however, remains: will MOOCs be effective in the long run?