What do you want to learn today? Interested in the Theory of Numbers or The Great Depression from American History? How about Supply Chain Planning or Artificial Intelligence?
Courses are offered online by prestigious American Higher Education institutions such as MIT, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the University of California, Irvine and from universities across the globe such as Tokyo Institute of Technology, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and the University of Cape Town.
You can find more course and school listings at the Open CourseWare Consortium.
In 1999, the Eberhard Karls University in Tubingen, Germany became the first school to offer Open CourseWare. Shortly after in 2001, The New York Times wrote about MIT’s decision to put almost all of its 2,000 courses online.
Since then there has been an explosion of courses offered this way from across the world.
Open CourseWare means that learners from across the globe are able to take classes without worrying about college applications, course requirements and tuition.
Most students who take advantage of Open CourseWare aren’t even enrolled in college anywhere.
They are independent life-long learners and not working toward a particular degree. These online courses attract motivated students from all types of cultural and academic backgrounds.
For instance, Wendy Ermold, a researcher and field technician for the University of Washington Polar Science Center, conducts research in remote northern regions of the world.
When Wendy is out on the icebreakers or remote island, she listens to lectures and reviews Open CourseWare from a variety of content providers including MIT, Stanford, Seattle Pacific University and Missouri State University to update her knowledge of physics and other content areas.
Other learners study from more traditional environments in a democratized educational way. Having such a variety of content available online means anyone with an Internet connection can access it and learning is available to everyone regardless of financial or geographical resources.
The student in rural Wyoming has access to the same information and learning processes as the London-based learner.
Learners have the ability to customize their education according to their own real world needs and interests. Rather than follow strict curriculum guidelines leading to a specific degree, students can pick and choose any combination of courses to learn.
The learning experience is controlled and paced by the student. Time and geography are no longer important to the educational equation.
Open CourseWare encourages sharing by educators and students alike by removing the barriers of traditional educational models and allowing participants to share knowledge and update ideas and facts while reaching a broad audience. It empowers educators to spread their teaching globally.
Open CourseWare reinforces the college experience. It helps Universities show that the college campus experience is worth paying for and it helps provide a voice for current students on campus to contribute to a global learning experience.
Karen Kay is a writer who is passionate about education and is highly involved in trying to make graduate programs accessible to the masses. Karen gets her energy from a nice long run and loves to dive into a good book.