Five highly ranked colleges in the United States are set to start offering online classes for free through a new interactive learning program called Coursera. Students will be able to use Coursera to take classes in a range of subjects. Classes such as Greek mythology, calculus and many more will be available for students. In all, there will be more than three dozen classes available.
Coursera is designed to make getting an education more accessible and affordable. There are other programs with the same goal, but many of them simply offer a wall of text for students to read with little or no interactivity. Coursera brings a level of interactivity not previously seen in a free or affordable class.
The five schools currently signed on are Stanford, Princeton, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan. These are some very prestigious schools, and having the opportunity to learn from them for free is amazing.
Classes will function like most online learning environments. There will be tests that are computer graded. They are working on computer algorithms to grade papers and essays automatically.
Like anything in its infancy, there are some problems to be worked out. As it stands, there is no way for professors to keep track of who is doing the work, so cheating could be a problem. Because there is no degree, cheating will only hurt the student, and that alone should keep students honest.
Students will not get a degree for taking the courses, but they can request a certificate of completion for a small fee.