GAINESVILLE - Harvard courses for free? Hundreds of courses are being offered right now online at no charge by Ivy League schools and top tier universities including the University of Florida. Courses that cost thousands of dollars are available to anyone in the world. It's taking an old concept, online learning, and offering it at no charge to the masses.
"Hello, my name is Jennifer Clark with the University of Florida." University of Florida Professor Jennifer Clark is creating the same 3 credit class she teaches in a brick and mortar building at UF and putting it online for a website called Coursera. She and other teaches create the courses in a production studio at UF.
Coursera is one of a handful of sites that offers massive open online courses or MOOCs. Other MOOC's like Edex offers free courses from Harvard and MIT. They are real professors offering real university courses for free online to a massive worldwide audience. "I just check it this morning. It has more than 47,000 students," said Jennifer Smith, manager of the Instructional Design Services Center at the University of Florida. Tens of thousands of students, sometimes 100,000 are enrolled in a single course.
"I signed up for several," says JoLaine Jones-Pokorney. She enrolled in a genetics course out of curiosity. "I can't email my instructor and ask a question because there are thousands of us," says Jones-Pokorney. You may not get a response from the instructor but Coursera's inner workings revolves around a social media platform. Online students often help each other. It's a brand new way of teaching that enables anyone who has a computer to learn.
"The face to face education system we currently have is not serving the entire population's need for knowledge," said Dr. Andy McCullough, University of Florida Associate Provost of Information Technology. He was the point man to get UF on Coursera. Initially, it was a hard sell. At first, the UF board was hesitate to spend $250,000 to produce five courses. But McCullough says it was essential for UF to take part. "It was important for us to be in that group, to be able to exchange information and ideas with other research one universities who were investing so much time and interest in the teaching process," said McCollough
Coursera, Edex and other Mooc's like Udacity are still trying to figure out how to make money offering courses for free and so are the universities. They're also trying to figure out how students can earn real college credit in what may be a radically new way to transform higher education.
What about college credit or online cheating? And who's going to pay for all this? Tomorrow, I'll explore those questions and ask if these massive open online courses are a good fit for every school including the University of North Florida.
First Coast News