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Monday, December 24, 2007

Colleges and Universities that Offer Free Courses Online

In recent years, many universities and colleges have decided to make course
materials, including lectures, tests, notes and readings, available for free
on the Internet. These schools, which include world-class institutions like
MIT and UC-Berkeley, are hoping that people around the world will take
advantage of the incredible opportunity for learning.

List of the Most Respected Free Online Schools

A handful of world-class universities and colleges have decided to offer
free courses, assignments, and lectures via the World Wide Web, using a
variety of means that include streaming video, podcasts, and downloadable
lecture notes. Some of the most respected of these schools include:

a.. University of California at Berkeley
b.. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
c.. Tufts University
d.. Stanford University
e.. Yale University
f.. University of Notre Dame
g.. Carnegie Mellon University
h.. University of Washington
i.. Johns Hopkins University
j.. New York University
k.. Berklee College of Music
l.. Vanderbilt University
m.. Gresham College
n.. Open University (United Kingdom)
o.. Utah Valley State College
p.. Utah State University

Using Free University Resources

To start using the free university resources in the list above, go to the
school's website, scroll through the list of available courses and lectures,
make your selection, and download. Keep in mind that you might need to
acquire some new programs, such as iPod or MediaPlayer software, to take
full advantage of all course materials.

A few schools, such as the University of Washington, require you to register
using an email address, but most demand no registration or login at all. Of
course, you won't get any university credit for taking courses, and you also
won't have any access to professors or fellow students.

Pros and Cons of Free Universities

There are a few other drawbacks to free universities, as one might expect.
Many courses include reading lists filled with books that are not available
for free -- meaning you have to go out and buy them if you want to take full
advantage of the course. And some 'courses' are just six or ten web pages of
easy-to-read text followed by a multiple-choice quiz. This hardly compares
with a full semester of in-depth readings, classroom discussions and
all-night study sessions.

Still, many course offerings are surprisingly comprehensive, including
dozens of hours of audio lectures, supplemental movies, interactive quizzes
and self-directed assignments. For example, UC-Berkeley archives each
lecture for courses as diverse as General Astronomy, Heidegger and Human
Emotion, and then makes them available as podcasts.

Judgment Call: How Good Are Free Online Courses?

Some schools have assembled a formidable online arsenal of learning. Other
schools' online offerings are barely worth the time.

Ultimately, what each student gets out of free online learning depends on
his or her investment into the process. Free classes aren't substitutes for
a real university education, but the best schools' offerings might just help
you build the core knowledge you've always wanted in a certain subject.
Purchase the recommended reading books, complete the assignments and take
the interactive tests seriously, and you might find that you've actually,
well...learned something.

And, really, isn't that what it's all about?

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