All you need is…content? And then you will complete an online class?

Capella University announced they are offering free online access to tutorial content on the web:

The “free online tutorials, courses, etc.” continues to defy me.  There is a huge movement to put content online, making it free and accessible to the world. This is all fine and dandy EXCEPT for – what is the REAL expectation in using this content?  How many MIT, Yale and Harvard free online classes have YOU taken this spring? Don’t get me wrong – I think there is GREAT value in finding this content online, especially for faculty and instructional developers who are creating or refreshing online classes.  Having access to online content to integrate or at least inspire and influence our classes is awesome.  However, I just cannot grasp the feasibility and practicality that these free online courses are truly “accessible” to the “typical” community college or even undergraduate student. So why are these big schools investing in this movement?  What are they gaining and how does their return on investment measure up?  I just don’t get it.

What do you think?  What role do these resources play in our big-picture view of online education?  What are we missing by not tapping in to them?  What can we avoid if we avoid them?

Here is MIT’s free online courses website:
Here are Yale’s:
And here is Harvard’s:
Just to name a few…

2 responses to “All you need is…content? And then you will complete an online class?

  1. The obvious question is what happens when the “online content viewer” enrolls in college and wants credit for viewing that material. Even though Harvard says its courses are non-credit courses, are they going to make students “retake” the course if they enroll in the school? If not, then how are the “online content” course and the “real” course different? Isn’t there already plenty of information out there on these subjects (for the mildly interested learner), and aren’t they undercutting themselves by offering it for free? How will we determine who is really educated?

  2. Susan Hillabold

    free online courses seem to be very popular. Standford offered a free online course and thousands were interested. In one class, 10,000 people signed up for one free course. See
    I think the difference is between people who enjoy learning and want to advance their knowledge base and skill sets and those people who are just after a degree. I always took more classes than I needed to graduate just because I was interested in that topic or that class. I would have jumped at taking free online courses. And if I wanted the degree, I would have taken the course over again and paid for it. Would I complain? Not if I knew up-front what was at stake. Today, we have students at ICC who take courses that will not transfer. They should know this upfront.
    The free course does not give the student a credit towards a degree. I think that sounds fair. If someone wants to take the course later for credit, then they are “free” to “pay” for it. When I talk to someone who is “truly educated” but may not have the credentials, it’s not hard to see the breadth and depth of their learning. In fact, some of these same conversations about what is education/knowledge are going on about the lowered standards in high school now compared to high school 50 years ago.

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