Students are settling back into college campuses all over country: receiving syllabi, cracking reading lists and (hopefully) attending class. But what about the rest of us? For those inclined to feel nostalgic about this fall ritual, the Interwebs has a solution: In fact, it’s now possible to virtually audit classes all over the country at a fraction of the cost — or really, none of the cost.
The move toward putting college courses online and free for the public is part of a broader open education movement, which is flourishing across the web. The movement began in earnest over a decade ago with the introduction of MIT’s OpenCourseWare, which disseminates virtually all MIT course content on the Internet for free. OpenCourseWare now has more than 2,000 courses available on its site and has been visited more than 100 million times. Following MIT’s lead, the OpenCourseWare Consortium is a community of hundreds of universities and organizations (including MIT) committed to providing “free and open digital publication of high quality university-level education materials … accessible to anyone, anytime via the Internet.” And a great resource for finding academic content on almost any subject under the sun.
Anya Kamenetz has written extensively about the sustainability of our higher-education system and the open-education movement in her book, “DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education.” This movement toward more open access represents “the beginnings of a complete educational remix” and points toward “the expansion of education beyond classroom walls: free, open-source, networked, experiential, and self-directed learning.”
In that back-to-school spirit, here are a couple of classes worth checking out.
- Blogosphere superstar (and UC Berkeley econ professor) has made all of his econ 1 course materials available on his blog. It includes the syllabus, reading list and webcasts of lectures.
- Stanford professor (and Pulitzer Prize-winning author) Jack Rakove is an expert on Colonial and Revolutionary America. Complete lectures and syllabus on iTunes and here.
- Descriptive Introduction to Physics taught by University of California Professor Richard Muller. Also known as Physics for Future Presidents, this course stresses conceptual understanding rather than math (phew!).
- Learn Chinese as an absolute beginner with Dr. Julian K. Wheatley of MIT. An OpenCourseWare editors’ pick that includes lectures, coursework, audio samples and language study software.
- Game Theory with Professor Ben Polak of Yale University includes video lectures and the syllabus.
This is only a small fraction of the courses available to anyone with an Internet connection. Here are some suggestions from The New York Times. DIY Scholar has another list of recommendations. Plus, you can search for almost anything at the OpenCourseWare website.
What are we missing?