Completely free online classes? now offering courses from 16 top colleges

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Daphne Koller speaks at TEDGlobal 2012

It would cost you a minimum of $37,000 to enroll for a year at one of the top 10 schools in the United States, according to the U.S. News & World Report. However, anyone with a computer will now be able to take courses from half of those schools … for free.

At TEDGlobal 2012, Stanford University professor Daphne Koller introduced us to, an effort to bring rigorous college courses online to anyone who wants them. At the time, Coursera offered classes from Princeton University, the University of Michigan, Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania. However, today, Coursera announced partnerships with seven more top colleges in the United States: California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Georgia Tech, the University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Rice University, the University of California San Francisco, the University of Washington, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

At the same time, Caltech and the University of Pennsylvania have extended a combined $3.7 million investment in the site. And three international schools — the University of Edinburgh, the University of Toronto and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne — have also signed agreements with Coursera.

When Koller spoke at TEDGlobal in late June, Coursera’s stats read as such: 680,000 students from 190 countries viewing 14 million videos and taking 6 million quizzes in 1.6 million course enrollments across 43 courses. However, with this new infusion, Coursera will now be offering about 111 classes.

Each class — and topics range from “Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach” to “Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World” — has a definitive start date, and includes comprehension testing.

In her TEDTalk, Koller explained that Coursera was created after her Stanford colleague Andrew Ng offered a machine learning class online for free and had about 100,000 people enroll. But the benefits of the site go beyond offering great classes to anyone interested. By collecting every click, homework submission, quiz and forum note from tens of thousands of students, Coursera is a data mine that offers a new way to study learning.

“We can transform the study of human learning from hypothesis-driven to data-driven mode,” Koller explained.

Comments (66)

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  • commented on Jul 19 2012

    Reblogged this on InspireDesire and commented:
    Looking forward to seeing how this changes the face of obtaining higher education. Wonder what it will mean for college students after us.

  • Vadim Nadtocheev commented on Jul 19 2012

    It is an excellent idea!

  • Javier Solano commented on Jul 19 2012

    Coursera + Mitx + Khan academy, are some examples about how internet is changing now the brain of the world!! Really fabulous!!!

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  • Grace Davidson commented on Jul 18 2012

    This is a great idea on several levels! I think that we want to create a society where high level thinking and creating are valued, and ideas like this are monumental. Post-secondary education is out of reach so so many people, so why not give everyone the opportunity to learn? I wonder if they will provide some sort of recognition/certificate for students who have completed courses and want to include it on resumes?

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  • Na Ka commented on Jul 18 2012

    Site like this and academic earth along with Khanacademy is changing the educational system in a good way and I love it!

  • Stephanie Bynum commented on Jul 18 2012

    I think sharing information/course content for free is fabulous, but I strongly believe learning takes place within relationships. I would love to see someone highlight schools/organizations that provide relationship-based online learning.

  • commented on Jul 18 2012

    Reblogged this on Comme La Vie Est Belle and commented:

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  • Melodie Moore commented on Jul 18 2012

    I LOVE THIS. signed up for 2 courses and I am PUMPED!

    Caps was essential for you to understand my level of excitement.

    • AIDA INDZIC commented on Jul 21 2012

      Dear Melodie, can you tell me how to sing up for courses? Thanx in advance.

  • Hassan DuRant commented on Jul 18 2012

    It’s hardly a product – it’s an education system that is available to the public for free. They’re “promoting” it because it’s a service that will offer education and perpetuate the spreading of ideas.
    Whether Coursera is a good idea or not is up for debate I suppose (I personally think it’s a wonderful idea); however, it is certainly an important idea, and one that I think rightfully deserves to be talked about at TED. There are a few TED talks on reforming education, and I think this would fit nicely in with those.

  • Melissa Wood commented on Jul 18 2012

    This is brilliant and definately an idea worth sharing, many thanks!! Passing it on with enthusiasm.

  • Jasmine Pfingsten commented on Jul 18 2012

    Is it selling something if the product is without cost and doesn’t spam you with subversive advertisements? And in any case, I think cost-free higher education is not only an idea worth sharing — it’s an idea worth promoting, and enthusiastically so.

  • Al Meyers commented on Jul 18 2012

    Kind of on the fence with this one. I guess because the product is free, TED is ok with promoting it from the stage? One of the TED Commandments says “Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.”

    I am very passionate about TED, but the question is where you draw the line between an “idea worth spreading” and a “product or service worth promoting.”

    • Jessica Hothersall commented on Jul 20 2012

      My personal opinion is that free education is what allows people without funding to join the ranks of the educated and gives them an opportunity to reach their own personal best, it was only after the development of free schooling for all children in the west, that the middle classes were invented! Education is personal power in the nicest possible way!

  • commented on Jul 18 2012

    Reblogged this on MyLifeterium and commented:
    This is amazing for someone like myself to take a course online for free in the comfort of my home or workplace. Nowadays trying to work and update schooling is next to impossible.

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