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L. Denise Jackson

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Do you think there is a benefit in providing a percentage of courses within every college free and online?

With the rising of educational costs and the competitiveness, the socioeconomic gap will continue to be wider unless there is a philanthropic mandate post-graduation to ensure that generations to come are not existing with a disconnected view of society and more importantly people that can contribute to our overall progression.

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    Sep 2 2012: Yes. In fact, as listed below, there are some resources readily available and focused on independent learners! http://www.academicearth.org/ & www.http://ocw.mit.edu/ . I have found myself brushing up on certain subjects, as well as gaining perspective and insight on foreign subjects I would have otherwise not had the opportunity to explore. Perhaps the next step is to make independent learning viable in the workplace today, or perhaps it is the responsibility of the independent learner to utilize what they have learned themselves. As we live in this technological age, we have the great opportunity to expand the classroom from physical geological coordinates to the beautiful world wide web. TED.com itself has contributed greatly to this initiative! Let us feed the fire and keep it going!
  • Sep 23 2012: MIT and Yale and most likely many other credible universities and technical colleges have free courses. Of course you won't receive any credit for taking their free courses but the fact that the course are free and available to everyone is such a gift!
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    Sep 19 2012: Yes, of course. And to go a step further, education should eventually be scaled up and open, like Wikipedia, to combine established information with new attempts at expanding knowledge.

    Our problem is that we rely in our institutional thinking on convergent thinking, but usually a better approach is divergent thinking, so instead of a constant stream of "not that, only this" we should experience an infinite expanse of "yes that, and that too, and that too, and that too" opening possibility after possibility. With increasing possibility comes real hope.
  • Aug 30 2012: There is http://www.academicearth.org/ which offers free online courses from MIT, Caltech, Harvard.
  • Aug 29 2012: I recently spoke with a friend who completed an online Stanford course on semantics and AI. The course was lead by one of the world leading researchers in this field. There were 160,000 participants from around the world. Only 22,000 completed the course. My friend was simply blown away with the calibre of the lecturer (delivered on-demand) and the interactive discussions with the brilliant participants. What terrific exposure for the professor and for Standford. This course was free.

    Can you imagine if Stanford had charged $5 for this course? (Potentially far more revenue/profit than a few dozen bums in a lecture hall.) Also, those 22,000 graduates from the course are prime recruitment candidates. How much do you think Google or Microsoft or Apple or others would pay to reach out to the top 10% of the class? What a terrific revenue potential for the school.

    Safeguards can be put in place to ensure academic freedom is strictly maintained, but free courses offered worldwide is definitely a realistic scenario if there's the strategic and political will.

    While I applaud and support the objective, I do not believe that philanthropy is the way to make it happen.
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      Aug 29 2012: This sounds like Coursera, a great resource for the lifelong learner!
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    Sep 25 2012: "What we are seeing is the education system (at least the higher education system) attempting to recreate itself. " ~Gordon Barker.

    I agree with Gordon Barker, and others, almost down the line about our educational system, especially in regards to our colleges and Universities and the impact the internet is having upon them as machines utilized to distribute and communicate knowledge.

    I believe Colleges and Universities are trying to recreate themselves in the same fashion as the Newspaper industry is actively doing today. This change is being forced upon these two communication machines, by the facility of the internet to shape and redesign everything that connects to it.

    People today can challenge themselves to become more than they are and apply this "free" education to everything they do in their day to day lives. Free education in any form benefits everyone. It's a win/win proposition with the capacity to pull everyone up the ladder of success wither that success is cooking a meal, learning how to write a novel, or installing a new front porch. The internet can, often, replace books and other learning material, even a whole University with it's extended reach into the lives of everyone.

    I read that a young man, still in high school, developed a test for cancer that only cost three cents per test and did a better job than similar methods, already being use by the medical industry. He discovered all the components and ideas necessary to develop this test using Google and the internet.

    That is one heck of a success story displaying how the internet could possibly bring a college degree or certification to anyone who desires it but, I must mention that the internet in it's present, unregulated form can do more harm to children than the opportunity it affords to educational institutions. A college campus, at least has some level of personal protection for the students. You can post an inappropriate link on the TED website and hurt children.



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    Sep 24 2012: Who's benefit you are speaking of? There is a reason the people are not offered online studies and degrees. I won't pretend to know the answer, but I will guess; if anyone could obtain any course and degree online it would kill the sports programs and that is probably the greatest opponent to ever seeing a common sense approach to online university studies and degrees. I think it would benefit anyone and everyone who desires to take the classes, it would also jeopardize the schools that have a master named profit and growth. I have known for years, most of the children of elementary, middle, and high school would not only be safer, with fewer dropouts, fewer teen age pregnancies, fewer shootings, rapes, etc., etc., it would save the economy an enormous amount of money and we would definitely have smarter, more intelligent children. If education would shift to online studies, more home schooling (with the scholastic material offered by the schools but online) smaller physical schools with much smaller operating costs, smaller utility bills, smaller food program costs, fewer buses, EVERYTHING! There is no good reason for us the people to continue the prehistoric education system we have now, if we are speaking of the benefits to us the people..... Not only are they entrenched into this society, no matter how grand of a failure they may have become, they are what fuel the sports programs which ultimately furnish ALL the participants in professional sports. Another needless industry in our the nation. Even though it is directly connected to your query, it is another subject and story altogether. Maybe if sports ever die out in this country, as I wish they would, and should, then maybe you will see the schools offer all the same classes and benefits of higher education online and at home. We may be correct thinking we have no need for the physical institution, we would be terribly mistaken to think they have no need of the physical us.
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    Sep 23 2012: There is a benefit for sure. I think it's a social imperative.
  • Sep 23 2012: Does anyone know any online colleges that are free?
  • Sep 22 2012: There is udacity.com where you learn by solving challenging projects. They offer courses mainly on computer science and engineering courses, but also some statistics and start-up business courses
  • Sep 22 2012: YES!!! Access to education is critical and a tool to empower people to explore their potential.
  • Sep 22 2012: Online schooling rocks. I can learn about any topic to any level I care or am able to.
    Coursa.org offers online stuff covering a large variety of simple to oh boy. Many others out there too.
    Ones who want knowledge can have it at their own pace with enough different explanations available online from such a variety of minds,one is sure to get it one way or another. People helping others. I like it.
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    Sep 19 2012: of course we can benifit a lot from these courses.we can learn each other without considering some questions like the distances、money and ect.and we can choose what we like to learn rather than learn it implusively.
  • Sep 18 2012: What we are seeing is the education system (at least the higer education system) attempting to recreate itself.
    The current one was designed to fill a societial need when we had many workers with a few managers. Those people destined to be managers went to university.
    That need is now largely gone but the new need is not clear (at least to me).
    This is a transition phase that will eventually find a way to fund itself (30 people paying $3000 per online course or 90,000 people paying $1 for the same course with a global audience makes the same sense financially.
    It will just take time for the system to settle out the payment methods, delivery and certification methods.

    To validate who is actually logging on, I have seen some research that can identify a user based on the speed and pattern that they enter their passwords, where pauses are and where bursts of speed are seen.
  • Sep 18 2012: Yes.Absolutley critical. .No transportation,distance or scheduling problems.No discrimination.There are not as many social distractions online.


    Will tradtional classrooms become obsolete? Lots of cost ,time and resource disadvantages. Will the next generation of SIRI or IBM's Watson know a better answer to your question than your professor?

    And if takes dictation and types PDF will you be able to ...
  • Sep 18 2012: I agree that it should be free but not online. because, you could people registering for the courses, but let other do it for them.
    if it's going to be online; then stringent measures have to be put in place to make sure all rules and regulations on those courses are followed.
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    Sep 18 2012: With the number of universities offering free online classes trending upward (without regards to speed), I think the question is not "is there a benefit" because undoubtedly an educated populace is preferable, but is online the best method of receiving that end. I personal go to a "brick and mortar" university and I feel that there are learning and social aspects that you miss by only or mostly doing online classes. A few of those aspects being team work, the need to become global citizen, how to successfully manage time in unpredictable environments, and the like. Now, I do completely agree that rising tuition cost for higher education is ridiculous ( I mean debt for higher education eclipses credit card debt) and needs to be either be state or federally managed, but that's not going to happen only through free online class offerings.
  • Sep 15 2012: Bringing down the cost of education is always a good thing.
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    Sep 15 2012: To be it will surely be beneficial to provide free access of the world's finest college's courses to everybody in the world. It's flexible, efficient and durable.

    But the problem always remains about whether some colleges will be willing to participate or someone might take advantage of this program to make a huge profit.
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    Sep 15 2012: i don't know wha you are saying.now every day we surf the internet.it is enough,i think we should do something .no class.but practise.you konw we are reducing our time of outdoors.i don't think it benifit to our health,so sometimes out .and do .oh my god.what am i saying !
  • Sep 15 2012: It is beneficial for educational institutions to provide a percentage of their courses free and online.
    Online learning has its inadequacies; some fields need practical learning(pilots,doctors); the academic community is also an important part of learning(learning all alone with the computer will never be a good replacement for one-on-one interactions with other learners)

    But what can be learnt with the free online resources should be learnt.
    Imperfect learning/education is better than ignorance/illiteracy.
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    Sep 12 2012: It's getting harder to come up with a better joke on the job while installing a new roof because most of the guys have direct contact to the best jokes in the world online.

    The average roofer has seen more videos on how to install a roof, what tools to use and better ways to achieve result because of the internet. It's getting harder to find people in common labor jobs who have not learned something on the internet these days. In other words, people are more educated and knowledgeable about their jobs because of the internet.

    As long as the internet is free there will not be a disconnected view of society. Most people will be on top of just about everything. The socioeconomic gap will continue to be wider because of economic issues not related to educational access. You don't need a degree to create and develop a business or manufacturing process that will enable you to hire people with degrees to do all the head work. I know of a few business owners who built a Midwifery clinic, had only a high school education and employes doctors nurses and midwives with masters degrees.

    It' just business. What should be of more concern is will a more educated population who learn for free on the Internet bring down the cost of professional salaries because they can preform the same work with the help of a computer and will work for less than those with a degree. Will industry want to hire these people who can cheaply and easily get certification in their chosen field?

    I see the gap closing.
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    Sep 11 2012: I think that with the rising cost of education, more people would turn to free online education and realize that it's actuallly pretty damn good.
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      Sep 15 2012: I think there is an important distinction to be made here. On-line learning is great for being educated on quick ideas or demonstrations of certain skills. True knowledge and education comes after synthesizing information, considering options and developing a personal theory. This is often aided by discussion and debate. Unfortunately, the later is not ideally suited for on-line academic experiences.
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        Sep 15 2012: On the contrary, a ton of discussions and debates are held online. And the medium of an online forum has a ton of advantages over the medium of a real-life debate such as...

        1) Accessibility
        You can have discussions without your physical presence

        2) Continuity and Getting all ideas across in a single post
        You can have a discussion without people interrupting you before you even express your points

        3) Multi-linearity
        The discussions can be multi-linear where you have sub-threads of a discussion within a discussion and still be "heard" by all.

        In a face-to-face real life discussion, a forum or even a chat messaging platform is not ideal because the face-to-face talk is much faster at communicating ideas to/from each person, and you can also communicate not only through voice, but through body language, eye contact, facial language, or even drawing/showing physical objects/ideas to one another.

        To say that discussion and debate is not suited for online academic experiences is a weird statement, because having online discussions and debates is different from real life debates and they are inherently suited for different kinds of discussions/debates. Unless you were referring to the quality and the quantity of the learning experience.
        • Sep 15 2012: You can ahve discussions, but you do need human instructors in fields like medicine and the exact sciences, still, online material always helps.
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          Sep 15 2012: It depends whether the on-line format is based on real time or not. Those discussions that allow others to comment over time with the capability of responding to earlier comments may be more alligned to what you outline. Unfortunately, many real-time videos on-line or copies of lectures given durng a course are limited and exclude the person watching from home from entering into the discussion. Learning comes from the latin word for "draw out". Too often we think of education as "stuffing in" information.
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        Sep 15 2012: @John

        True, which subject benefits more from the different media of discussions is dependent on the subject itself.

        For something like Computer Science, you really don't need human instructors as much as most other subjects.
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        Sep 15 2012: @Joseph

        Hmm, I'm not sure I know what you're referring to. If you're talking about online videos that imitate real world lectures, then I agree that it's not that great of a way to learn, but this is not because it's online that it's not good, it's because the lecture model itself is just not good. I mean I've been to many lectures the model of single sender to multiple receivers is inefficient for a lot of comprehensive learning. The lecture model can only really be most effective if the lecturer is great.
  • Sep 10 2012: Yes I do agree, but where is the profit in that?
    So do you think it’s going to happen?
    I do think it should, but in this day and age most but not all people think more about the value of money than any gaps that maybe appearing or need filling within society.
  • Sep 10 2012: thank you
  • Sep 3 2012: Dear Maria
    Am far to liberal and scientific to say 'doing that for years'. And fresh ideas are not limited to the young, I have them every day and with my experience in life have more than the young have.
    And as for free on line teaching check out the Khan Academy web site, thy go far beyond just free teaching.
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    Sep 3 2012: No benefit at all except a personal benefit of completion. The biggest problem with online courses is that anybody can be sitting at that computer answering questions and watching videos.

    Just because I registered for the course does not mean that I took it. I could pay someone to sit at the computer and answer questions for me. However, there would be some new employment opportunities...
    • Sep 15 2012: "I could pay someone to sit at the computer and answer questions for me."

      Just as in regular collegewhere you can pay someone to make your assignments and take home exams.
  • Sep 3 2012: The MIT and similar offerings are great.

    And you're right, the student doesn't get his/her ticket punched as having attended MIT or wherever.
  • Sep 2 2012: Nothing's "free."

    Every online course requires an instructor to lead, grade and administer the course. That teacher commonly does not donate his/her time. They expect to be paid for their work.

    If the student does not have to pay for that particular course then the money to offer the course must come from another source such as higher tuition or higher taxes.

    SOMEbody's "gotta" pay.
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      Sep 3 2012: Hey Jim,

      While you are correct in that the professors do need to be paid, the great thing about MIT OpenCourseWare is that they are video recorded lectures, syllabi, and notes that are simply put online for independent learners or people who were unable to go to a university for a multitude of reasons. It's great! Why would anyone pay for school then you ask? Well, the disadvantage of OCW is that you do not have contact with the professor for questions or explanations (generally). Completing courses 'independently' is not recognized in a certifiable way. It is also quite a different learning environment all together, you have to be strict on yourself to do the work, as no one will be checking it, there simply will be no grades. While avenues of ''free'' learning cover the most essential component in giving an opportunity to increase knowledge; they perhaps do not give the prestige or credibility that going to a university would, which might result in lesser potential to carry forward the knowledge in a corresponding subject-area job or in graduate study.
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      Sep 12 2012: I learned to be an excellent computer programmer checking out books for free at the library. Well, they weren't entirely free. The taxpayer paid for them and the publisher paid the author. I also had to build my own computer because there weren't any ti purchase in any of the stores.

      Most of the people who learned to program at college, who didn't already have loads of experience from practicing at home made pretty poor programmers. They usually ended up in sales and managing projects.

      To learn to program requires a lot of time and occupying space with your fingers and your mind. Starting to learn this useful art when you enter college is a bit too late to compete with those who started when they were 12 years old at home.

      The software industry doesn't need prestigious programmers they want coders who can follow directions and code the work. Prestige goes to the boss, who probably dropped out of college to pursue his grand idea.

      To be medical doctor, you have to go to medical school but to be a good doctor you have to spend a lot of time in the emergency room and on the floors, making mistakes. That's a scary thought.

      What they have today I didn't have is online MIT, video lectures, and access to programing materials all over the net. The gap between needing a college education to accomplish most projects today is reduced by the computer which does most of the processing with logic and math. Spending more time at home with Mathcad an adequately designed program manual and access to people who can guide you and critique your work will create more mathematicians than college.

      The only thing keeping these people out of the work force is the requirement for a college degree, which is swiftly being replaced by the Certification process.
  • Aug 30 2012: Wow what a great resource. Thanks very much for the tip!

    I guess the original point I was trying to make is that free and online courses can be funded by corporations and that this could be a very lucrative opportunity for universities to expand their brand and global reach while also increasing revenues (and without compromising accessibility). A real win/win.
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      Sep 12 2012: Combine that with the opportunity to take a test and get the prestigious degree would be big winner. Imagine, spending all your time at home studying and taking a test that says you graduated from Harvard.

      Why do we even need the degree? Certification is the best route for industry to hire qualified people cheaper. Most projects are so large these days that specialization, and the ability to become specialized in more areas of industry is what is needed most. I think the avenues used to deal with the Haitian earthquake incident reveals this need. They needed to get the specialists, medical, water, housing, transportation, energy, to the sites of greatest need and I understand it was done by just a few people and some computers, in under 50 hours.