MOOC offerings continue to expand

The trend continues. The old college model continues to be threatened by the new trend of self-education where people all over the world can take advantage of incredible college courses that are free to everyone online. Here’s info on new courses from Case Western:

More than 80,000 people from around the world have signed up for Case Western Reserve University’s first free online courses – and there is still time to register.

The noncredit courses start Wednesday through Coursera, a company that provides an online platform to dozens of colleges for MOOCs, massive open online courses. It is CWRU’s first venture into MOOCs, which have exploded in popularity since Stanford University offered the first one in 2011.

As of Monday afternoon, over 65,000 had registered for a six-week CWRU course, Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence, taught by Richard Boyatzis of the CWRU Weatherhead School of Management. The nationally known professor of organizational behavior plans to teach about how emotional intelligence can complement analytic tasks as well as invoke curiosity and openness in students’ lives.

Check out the entire article if this course interest you.

Evaluating online degrees

We’ve addressed issues surrounding for-profit college scams in the past. There’s also the issue of rising college costs in general, and also the opportunities for self-education for free.

Here’s an excellent article that gives great advice on how to evaluate online courses and degrees. It’s important to use objective resources and guides.

You don’t mention whether you’ve already tried Googling, say, “online degree programs,” but, if so, you’ve no doubt been bombarded with advertising from for-profit schools. The University of Phoenix alone spends over $200 million a year on television and Internet pitches, according to an estimate from Madison Avenue trade paper Ad Age. Nothing wrong with advertising, of course, but in some respects it does make the process of choosing the right online school more difficult.

Here’s why: more than 7,000 U.S. colleges and universities now offer long-distance degree programs — and about 85% of those are traditional brick-and-mortar schools that have expanded into cyberspace over the past few years. Yet traditional colleges don’t have the marketing budgets that the huge for-profit schools have. So unless you actively seek out brick-and-mortar schools’ online offerings, you may never know they exist.

“Prospective students should be wary of Internet ‘guides’ to online education that get paid to promote for-profit schools,” says Vicky Phillips. “It’s called pay-per-lead advertising, and it means the ‘guide’ gets X dollars for each person it steers to a for-profit university.” Traditional colleges don’t have such deep pockets, so thousands of them are unlikely to turn up in such directories at all.

“Not only that, but the for-profit schools have tens of thousands of students, while the online bachelor’s-in-business program at a traditional university can only accept, say, 30 at a time,” she adds. “So even if traditional colleges could afford to pay for online leads, it wouldn’t make sense for them to do so. They’re operating on an entirely different scale.”

Phillips has been researching and comparing online degree programs for 20 years, which is about as long as they’ve existed. She runs a consumer-information web site called GetEducated.com that you might want to check out. The site includes a comparison tool that lets you evaluate and rank schools using 12 different filters. These include type of specialization in your major (business with a minor in finance, for instance); non-profit versus for-profit; secular versus religious (many Christian colleges now offer long-distance learning); and whether the school’s programs are 100% online or “hybrids,” meaning you’ll have to show up in person several times per semester.

There are tons of great options for online education, both free and those that require payments. You just have to do your research and find the solution that’s best for you. Just be careful of any program where you will end up with loads of college debt.

MOOCs are changing the college game


Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s a MOOC? More and more people are going to start finding out.

Jonathan Salovitz’s course load sounds as grueling as any college undergraduate’s: computer science, poetry, history, math and mythology, taught by professors at big-name schools such as Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.

Except Salovitz, 23, is not an undergraduate. His effort won’t count toward a bachelor’s degree, and he hasn’t paid a dime in tuition. Nor have his classmates, who number in the tens and even hundreds of thousands.

Instead, Salovitz calls himself a “guinea pig.” He’s participating in a grand experiment in higher education known as Massive Open Online Courses –MOOCs, for short. Learners of all ages around the world are flocking to them. Top universities are clamoring to participate. And MOOCs already have attracted the interest of some employers, paving the way for a potential revenue source. All in less than a year.

“The industry has operated more or less along the same business model and even the same technology for hundreds of years,” says John Nelson, managing director of Moody’s Higher Education. “MOOCS represent a rapidly developing and emerging change and that is very, very rare.”

Welcome to the self-education revolution. Follow that internal link as we’ll be tracking the progression of MOOCs and other ways you can teach yourself new skills or give yourself a rewarding education. This can also help young kids in high school learn subjects that aren’t taught in their school. It is also a threat to rising college costs.

The possibilities are endless. The true potential of the Internet is now reaching education. Take advantage of it!

Emergence of Massive Open Online Courses

We’ve been discussing the importance of the self-education revolution, with the emergence of free college courses allowing people all over the world to educate themselves. As more universities and start-ups put more college level courses online for free, the media is paying more attention to this trend.

USA Today recently discussed this revolution in a recent article on Massive Open Online Courses:

Jonathan Salovitz’s course load sounds as grueling as any college undergraduate’s: computer science, poetry, history, math and mythology, taught by professors at big-name schools such as Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.

Except Salovitz, 23, is not an undergraduate. His effort won’t count toward a bachelor’s degree, and he hasn’t paid a dime in tuition. Nor have his classmates, who number in the tens and even hundreds of thousands.

Instead, Salovitz calls himself a “guinea pig.” He’s participating in a grand experiment in higher education known as Massive Open Online Courses –MOOCs, for short. Learners of all ages around the world are flocking to them. Top universities are clamoring to participate. And MOOCs already have attracted the interest of some employers, paving the way for a potential revenue source. All in less than a year.

The articles goes on to describe many of the new courses and companies that are driving the interest here, so it’s definitely worth a read. It also points out how Moody’s Investor Service calls MOOCs a “pivotal development” that has the potential to revolutionize higher education.

Over time, we can expect to see employers start to react. Imagine how impressed you would be interviewing someone who either used these resources to complete a virtual college education, or someone who used it to gain a new skill. Think about a medical professional who decides to go online to get a virtual business or accounting degree.

The possibilities here are endless, and there will be plenty of ways apart from the old grading/diploma system to verify that the student has actually completed the courses and learned the material.

The future in education suddenly looks bright.

The crippling cost of college

One of the themes we keep emphasizing has to do with the crippling costs of a college education today in America. Sure, college campuses are much nicer with all the new buildings and new technologies, but they are failing in their basic mission if students leave there with massive student debt that will hang over them for the rest of their lives.

More publications are doing good work discussing these problems. In Newsweek, Megan McArdle asks whether college is a lousy investment.

Why are we spending so much money on college?

And why are we so unhappy about it? We all seem to agree that a college education is wonderful, and yet strangely we worry when we see families investing so much in this supposedly essential good. Maybe it’s time to ask a question that seems almost sacrilegious: is all this investment in college education really worth it?

The answer, I fear, is that it’s not. For an increasing number of kids, the extra time and money spent pursuing a college diploma will leave them worse off than they were before they set foot on campus.

Given the costs, it’s hard to argue with her on this point. She discusses how college was critical for many families in building a better life for the next generation. But sitting on an English degree with $150,000 of debt seems like a pretty bad deal.

That said, we can’t overreact to the current economic conditions. When the economy improves, more of these kids will get jobs with their degrees.

Yet something has to give, and it was very encouraging to hear President Obama challenge colleges to slow down tuition inflation.

Also, the future of free college courses looms on the horizon. Universities would be wise to start figuring out how to lower costs, or they might really have a problem in the future.

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