Free Online College Classes on the Rise: MIT, Harvard, and Coursera

In the economic climate that has been forecasted for many young Americans, it may seem as if the future of the job market and educational system bleak; students are afraid to take out loans and go to school because they don’t know what the job market will be like once they graduate so many don’t go to school and lack the skills to have a high paying career.

According to Mary Beth Marklein, of USA Today, if you have an Internet connection, access to a computer and the drive to learn without requiring an incentives program, you may be in luck; two venture capital companies, Udacity and Coursera, have teamed together to created a new learning platform called MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses. The idea, is to create a platform for learning where the contributors account for part of the learning material or experience.

It’s a familiar formula for learning, that is free because no grades or degree are earned. As it stands, it has not been decided whether or not students will receive credit for completing a course or whether students will eventually need to pay a tuition. According to, a faculty team, with Coursera, will be meeting early next year to assess the progress of this new mode of learning.

Many critics wonder now, how can this for of online education benefit students and what the drawbacks might be, if any. We considered the pros and cons to this new revolution in online learning.

Free But No Degree

In May 2012, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard jointly funded edX, a non-profit partnership that is slated to create seven MOOC classes this Fall semester. Coursera, a social media platform, was created by two Stanford professors with the intent to train more Computer Science engineers and future business owners and entrepreneurs. With the understanding that in order to keep these classes affordable for all, MOOC classes are going to have to have a cost eventually to sustain it’s business model, and could possibly compete with other universities, says Michael Horn, a co-founder of Innosight Institute, a Silicon Valley think tank that focuses on education.

EdX plans to charge students a small tuition to receive a certificate, which could be enough for some institutions that an applicant is qualified to perform tasks at a job. If employers will accept a certificate as well as a $60,000 degree, it might drive down the cost for higher education completely. Open enrollment for EdX and the MOOC classes have exploded, leading many to wonder whether this phenomenon will change levels of enrollment for other accredited colleges.

One thing seems to sure though, students who don’t have the assurance they will receive a certification at the end of the course have not taken the time to complete the courses. at least not in the U.S. In Mongolia and in Bangalore, India, there have been students who have taken these courses, offered by MIT, where two of them got A’s. One of the students, Ashwith Rego said he was definitely going to put the accomplishment of completion on his resume.

Leave a Reply