The excerpts below were taken from the organizations’ web sites. These descriptions were created by the founders of each group and are copied from the “About” pages on each site.
- Coursera is a “social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.”
- edX “is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that features learning designed specifically for interactive study via the web.” This is a powerhouse partnership that also includes the University of California at Berkeley.
- Udacity “was founded by three roboticists who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online for very low cost. A few weeks later, over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled in our first class, “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.” The class was twice profiled by the New York Times and also by other news media.”
- CMU Open Learning Initiative: “The Open Learning Initiative (OLI) is a grant-funded group at Carnegie Mellon University, offering innovative online courses to anyone who wants to learn or teach. Our aim is to create high-quality courses and contribute original research to improve learning and transform higher education.”
- MIT Open Courseware “is a free publication of MIT course materials that reflects almost all the undergraduate and graduate subjects taught at MIT.” The site emphasizes that it does not offer credit or all course materials for every course. However, the depth and sheer number of offerings is impressive.
The purpose of highlighting these initiatives is not to provoke a qualitative comparison between the on campus and online environments. Rather the intent is to show that these organizations represent a real contribution in making excellent information and course materials available to anyone with an Internet connection. It should also be noted that some of these organizations feel the qualitative difference is minimal. In either case, these projects represent the fulfillment of an early educational promise of the Internet: to provide learning opportunities at low or no cost on a global level. Let the free learning begin… 😎