Thursday, August 9, 2012

Open Education Resources (OER) Brings Free and Affordable College Options Closer to Reality

I’ve been critical of the "Generation Debt"-producing “College for All” mantra in pieces like The College Myth: Why College isn't Worth the Cost for Many Careers Today.  However, Online learning and OER  (Open Education Resources) have tremendous potential for  driving down college costs.

In particular I’ve featured colleges like Harvard and MIT who are placing their classes online and organizations like University of the People and School of Everything who are sharing a variety of online learning opportunities. All of these options are being offered at little or no cost.  

In many cases students are able to take the reins and move through the courses on their own.  In other cases they use study groups like  Peer 2 Peer University or tutors to support them especially in some of the more difficult subject areas like Algebra or Physics where they may want or need additional support.

While getting a free education is fantastic, what is really promising is that now more and more places are offering accredited degrees for their classes. The classes give students access to online laboratories, self-assessments and student-to-student discussions. While access to the course content is usually free, there will be an affordable charge for a credential.

Perhaps what is most groundbreaking is what Stanford professor Daphne Koller shares with us in her recent TED Talk. Koller is excited to be making the college experience available to anyone through her startup, Coursera which currently has classes from 16 top colleges. While colleges have been putting lectures online for years, Coursera's platform supports the other vital aspect of the classroom: assessments and assignments that reinforce learning with a unique peer to peer system of evaluating student work.  

Koller points out that the future of education is here now. She shares how people from around the world are learning at their own pace and getting together online with thousands of others to learn globally while also putting together traditional supports like face to face or online study groups or tutors to support that learning.  

To get more of an insight into what this might mean and look like, check out Koller’s TED Talk below.

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