In the past few months we witness an impressive amount of bloggers, articles (both academic and newspaper) and general conversation that are writing about and discussing the recent education revolution. I´m referring to the Massive Open Online Course, commonly known by the acronym MOOC. The MOOCs are the free virtual university classroom and it is the symbol of this new and exciting era where accessibility to knowledge was never simpler and more accessible.
You are probably thinking what the majority were saying in the first couple of years since 2008 (and what some still do today): ‘we don´t have time for that’ or ‘I already got a job’. Well, while this certainly is true, still, the MOOCs provide opportunity that before people can only dream of. Some, unfortunately, are working in places they do not really want to be (whether choosing it for practical reasons or extrinsic pressure) hence, now they can easily study what you always dreamed of. Then, whether or not you´ll be able to take it to the next level and actually making a profession of it, maybe, but you´ll never know unless you´d try. As always, the best thing about trying is not the success (a great motivation) but the experience and the skills we acquire while learning and evolving (the best motivation).
In today’s hyperactive world, as in practically anything we do, we will not pay too much attention if it has no utility to us -Probably some of you will stop reading after seeing this word “utility” but let’s face it, even though there is no romance in a phrase like this, it is still quite true.- Thus, MOOC is very successful exactly because it offers all the utility we need: desired knowledge and in a convenient time.
This is why I decided to make it easier to all of you that are knowledge addicts and put together a list of useful links to some of the many resources.
My own experience with online learning and virtual classroom started years ago when I first started viewing courses and podcasts through sites as Academ.org and LearnersTV and such. Later I upgraded to Google Academic Earth, with a large variety of courses from all subjects and a multitude of universities. While my passion is studies about Social Psychology and Social Science I also took listened and followed classes about Economics, Philosophy and Psychology (I even tried Mathematics but I admit that it wasn´t my cup of tea).
Today, thanks to innovators such as Andrew Ng (London, 1976), Daphne Koller (Jerusalem, 1968), Bestian Thrun (Solingen, 1967), Anant Argawal (Bombay, 1960) and many more we have platforms that not only provide us with the courses but also the framework for us to be able to take one step further towards making it an official diploma. Probably the biggest of all is Coursera with more than 17 million students from all over the world. The 400 classes are given in 83 different education centers all over the world in all the major languages.
The MIT open courseware, whether it is learning Italian language and home cooking simultaneously, psychology or the world of Finance, you have the opportunity to follow your passion into a more profound level. If you are more into language try Duolingo or maybe to learn computer code (in codeacademy), possibilities are endless.
Other important universities also began their own web of free and shared lectures. Some of the most known are: Cornell’s eCommons (like this interesting one about Quantum Theory made simple), Harvard’s edX (initiated with MIT), Stanford Online and many others (click here for a list of 775 free online courses from different universities).
Other centers and platforms that are just as good are: Udacity, Iversity (where I personally take a course this semester), Khan Academy, e-learning, Edmodo (highschool education), Open2Study, P2PU amongst others.
And so, as Koller tell us in the wonderful TED Talk, today education can travel over barriers as financial difficulties, distance to the closest education facility, and physical disability. With a click of a mouse and average internet connection (whether private or public), everyone can become a student and participate in this wonder we call universal knowledge.
Short video on what is MOOC:
I´ve been asked if all the people that enroll in these courses are academics. Well, the answer is certainly not. Just in my course there are about 5000 students, viewing their profile I found that the large majority are nothing but academics (commercials, shop owners, retired, artists, high-schoolers, unemployed and many more).