As society becomes increasingly more tech-savvy, more and more of the foundations of our lives are turning to the web. Our professional lives have been conducted online and plugged in for several years now and, with the advent of social media and social networking, so too are our personal and social lives. The latest trend today seems to be online learning and online education. While at one time online education and online degrees were frowned upon by most employers and scholars, more and more people are turning to online avenues for their educational and academic endeavors. Furthermore, as online degrees and online courses become more popular, online courseware that is free and readily available are becoming the next hot thing. The internet is all about immediate access to information for no cost—this is the crux of open courseware. Open courseware allows anyone with a computer and the internet access to endless knowledge and academic pursuit. These three open courseware resources are wonderful waves of what will be part of the future of education and academics.
As one of the most prominent names in higher education, MIT plays a major role in America’s opinion on higher education. That being said, MIT has made the real wave on the front of open courseware and online learning. Offering up to 1,800 courses online and free to access, MIT is one of the absolute best resources for open courseware in the world. These courses come directly from the actual traditional courses taught at MIT, including syllabi, reading lists, course notes, assignments, and much more. Of course, because MIT is a technical school, most of the courses offered are of that nature. There is both video and audio that accompanies many of the courses, providing a learning environment that closely compares to being inside a class at MIT. MIT’s initiative to provide higher learning material to anyone who wants it is admirable and forward thinking.
UC Berkeley offers webcasts of several different classes offered on their campus. UC Berkeley is one of the top-ranked public universities in the nation and boasts some of the most influential professors in their fields. Allowing anyone to watch various webcasts or listen to podcasts of their lectures, Berkeley’s open courseware initiative is one of the best. Each course that is offered provides printable assignments, notes that you can get from the professor’s website, and tests from the actual class. This is a wonderful resource for anyone looking to expand their mind or build on their educational repertoire.
Carnegie Mellon is another one of the biggest name universities in the nation offering open online learning resources. With Carnegie Mellon’s open learning initiative, you can choose to either sign up as a user for free to keep track of your scores and progress or you can simply take a class unregistered. Though the school only offers a few courses online at this time, they are offered in a very useful and approachable way. Mellon offers classes such as Modern Biology, Media Programming, Statistics, French, and several others. These classes are easier to jump into than UC Berkeley’s or MIT’s simply because of the way they are presented. There is basically presented as an eBook, where you can jump from chapter to chapter at your own will.
Each of these open courseware initiatives is examples of how education can be accessible to anyone wishing to find it. These schools set a wonderful example by sharing their wealth of knowledge and resources and making learning and academia available to anyone who seeks it.
Jane Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. She writes about free background checks for Backgroundcheck.org. Questions and comments can be sent to janesmth161 @ gmail.com.