The cost of education never seems to go down, but there are some great free educational resources online. Now more than ever, people are taking advantage of taking free college courses online from some very big name institutions. While it is true that when you take these free online college courses you are not going to get college credit for them, you will get the knowledge without spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Beyond gaining the knowledge offered in these free online college courses and saving money, you can take them at your leisure going as fast or slow as you need to. You fit your educational experience into you your schedule. While many people wonder why anyone would take these courses without getting credit, the answers to that are numerous. Some people just want to explore new areas of knowledge. In other cases people audit these classes to brush up on things they may have forgotten. Still for others, a growing trend is students taking the courses for free online prior to taking them at a physical campus for credit to increase their odds of getting a better grade by having a jumpstart.
The MIT OpenCourseWare Consortium was founded in 2002 – actually 2005 for the Consortium, but in 2002 MIT paved the way with the OpenCourseWare Initiative which became the consortium. The consortium offers a host of online lectures and courses through audio or video formats. They are all under open license which is a very nice perk they grant. Currently 22 universities in the US are participating. The consortium includes MIT, Tufts, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Michigan to name just a few.
You can take classes on anything from business and accounting to economics, architecture and biology. Most universities offer courses that they are best known for – hence you would expect MIT to offer an array of math courses and Johns Hopkins biology classes for example. The courses offered do change at times, but the older courses are archived so there is always something to learn.
The Khan Academy is another option for free online learning. The Khn Academy offerings are primarily math, but whether you are looking for basic arithmetic, advanced calculus, or something in between you’re covered. There are some science courses offered, but they are generally few and far between. While you may not be familiar with the Khan Academy name, it has a stellar reputation for teaching math in a very easy to understand common sense style that has produced positive results.
Academic Earth is a site that collects lectures from 19 universities in a manner similar to the OpenCourseWare Consortium. One nice thing about Academic Earth is they host everything they offer rather than sending you to other sites via a hyperlink. One of the best features though is their advanced search tool that allows you to pinpoint a specific topic within a course. If for example you wanted to brush up on limits, you could search for a specific lecture on that alone rather than wading through hours of Calculus II courses waiting for it to come up. They offer courses ranging from computer science to religion, philosophy, and literature.
iTunes U is also an option for some people – especially those on the go. Courses can be accessed through iTunes and taken on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod which is attractive to many people. The search feature allows a specific search for a topic much like Academic Earth has which is a plus. The problem with iTtunes U is that there is a ton of stuff offered and it can become a real mess finding anything – particularly if you use a general search. Some users have commented that some courses are great and others far too basic.
There are other options that for one reason or another don’t seem to measure up to the above mentioned quite as well. Wikiversity has quite a few courses offered, but accuracy of the offerings has been questioned a bit too much to be the best option. Textbook Revolution is nice, but basically all you are getting is the textbook – no lecture or anything of that nature is included. They both have some good points, but being text only they don’t quite measure up to the actual lectures.