How Online Courses Will Change the World

Open courseware could be an ultimate equalizer – bringing education to everyone no matter where they live, their age, or their income. Open courseware (OCW) programs are developed by universities. These universities have a department especially for develop OCW content. The content is just recordings, assignments, and readings from professors teaching a traditional class on campus. These resources are collected and uploaded to a website accessible to everyone from around the world. OCW courses don’t involve real time professor to student communication, any deadlines or required assignments, and there’s no credit granted at the end of the course (or degree for that matter) but the classes also don’t cost anything and people can start and stop them whenever they wish. The bottom line is: OCW is all about self-learners, people who just have the thirst for knowledge. And the best part is – the top colleges in the country and world are getting on board with this, which means OCW offers fairly expensive content completely for free.

While it might seem like kicking off an OCW site would be cheap for universities – the content is already in existence, after all – but Yale predicts it costs them about $30,000-$40,000/ year to keep their OCW running. These costs include the video equipment, the employees managing the site, and more. This isn’t a particularly huge dent at a college like Yale, but it is a completely free service and therefore Yale has no way of recouping its costs. The mission of OCWs, however, is to distribute free content. Fortunately there are many non-profits who see the value in this kind of accessible education and are donating grants and funds to the cause.

People who are interested in in OCW courses will be pleased to find classes on every topic from Russian Literature to Advanced Physics and everything else in between. Some of the top OCW websites are:

  • MIT
  • Yale
  • John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Notre Dame
  • Berkeley

Students can choose if they prefer a class with video of a professor’s lecture, a course based on readings, or a hands-on course that suggests assignments. Many experts in the education field are citing OCW as the thing of the future – a virtual experience that will hopefully help answer some of the tough issues in higher education such as rising costs and access issues for people who don’t live near to good colleges and universities.