Whether in the hills of Sri Lanka or the hollows of Kentucky the world is now at the fingertips of brilliant people who until a few years ago would have languished in intellectual cul-de-sacs.
How taxi cartels resort to desperate measures to kill innovation and save their crumbling industry. Students can soon earn credit through MIT's free online courses, finish grad degree on campus.
A doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reads outside a building at the Cambridge, Mass. In a pilot project announced Wednesday, students will be able to take a semester of free online courses in one of MIT's graduate programs and then, if they pay a "modest fee," earn a "MicroMaster's" degree, the school said. The new degree represents half of the university's one-year master's degree program in supply chain management. The fee for the MicroMaster's degree amounts to what it now costs to receive a "verified certificate" for finishing online classes, the university said.
Amid the growth of free online courses, some academics predicted that it would spell the end of traditional college courses, and perhaps undermine the need for university degrees. This year, Arizona State University started offering freshman courses online for free, with the option to pay for course credit later at a cost of up to $200 per credit hour.
MIT and Harvard were seen as pioneers in 2011 when they created the provider for free online courses, edX.
It was while teaching my tenth grade Academic English class that I first became aware of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs.
In addition to MIT’s 2150 free and open courses, other prestigious institutions like Harvard, Stanford, Tufts, the University of Michigan, the University of California at Irvine, and Yale have many classes available for home learning at no cost. My MOOC ended up being Stanford’s “The Structure of English Words,” which I found on iTunes via the Stanford website.
Though online learning is by no means new, an accredited course offered for free to anyone in the world from one of the finest universities in the world is new. As part of the pilot project, students who perform well in the online half can apply to finish the second semester on campus, though they would have to pay tuition for that part.


But MIT follows other schools trying to merge those online classes with a university-stamped degree. The Georgia Institute of Technology offers an online master's degree in computer science for $6,600, but the classes can be taken for free without credit.
The idea was to spread education far, snipping the tie between knowledge and academic credit. Students who fare well during the online semester will boost their chances of being accepted into the full master's program, the school said. Open your mind. Attending college is a time to both to expand your existing knowledge and also to try new things. See what’s available. Visit the open online learning websites of the institutions that most interest you.
Plan the time commitment. The course syllabus will include all of the assignments and projects. Think about how you will use the knowledge you gain. Information garnered from MOOCs could be perfect for research projects, papers, or presentations in school.
Follow your heart. Look at your list of remaining MOOCs and see which one really speaks to your heart.
MIT is announcing a pilot graduate program and students will take the first part entirely through MOOCs (massive open online courses). At the end, students who start the program online would pay less than those who take the full year on campus. The University of Illinois has an online master's degree in business using a similar model. Although the pilot program will reintroduce course credit, MIT says it's the next step along the same path. Alex is the student who aspires to run Google someday, so his choice of an MIT website was not a surprise at all. The courses are most heavily used by self learners (43%), students (42%), and educators (9%).


With these resources available to us, why not practice for college by trying something different? Browse the courses by category or level, and make a list of the classes you’d most like to take. Most will have required reading, and the materials will be listed in the syllabus, or on the front page of the course. If there is nothing planned, you can ask your teacher if you can do an extra assignment to share and get some feedback on your new knowledge.
However, I was surprised that the general public is now able to virtually experience courses at one of the most elite, rigorous, and expensive institutions of higher learning in the whole world for free. Shake off the idea that it might be too hard, but if a course does not appeal to you at all, then move on. For instance, if you love English but have focused mostly on British Literature, why not try a course about American Literature? If you live in a college town, you may be able to use the local college library for research.
If the work needed for the course will not fit into your free time, then strike that course from your list.
No matter what reason someone has for exploring an online course, the ivory tower is more open now than ever. Or, expanding even further, why not take a course about the History of England and see if you can find any connections between the literature you know and the history you’ll be learning?
If materials for one course are too hard for you to obtain, then take that course off your list.



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