News / USA

Online Universities Offer Free Classes to Millions

Online Universities Offer Free Classes to Millionsi
X
February 28, 2013 10:13 PM
The academic world took notice in 2011 when a Stanford University professor offered an online course on artificial intelligence for free, and more than 160,000 students from around the world registered for it. Stanford’s success prompted other major universities such as Harvard and MIT to follow suit and that brought increased attention and funding to organizations developing free Internet-based education programs. VOA's Brian Padden has more from Palo Alto, California.
Brian Padden
The academic world took notice in 2011 when a Stanford University professor offered an online course on artificial intelligence for free, and more than 160,000 students from around the world registered for it. Stanford’s success prompted other major universities such as Harvard and MIT to follow suit and that brought increased attention and funding to organizations developing free Internet-based education programs. 

An engineering class at Stanford University is being recorded as an online course. The university is offering 30 to 40 free courses online, and more than 1.5 million students have enrolled. There are regular schedules, homework and tests but those enrolled do not earn credit toward a university degree. John Mitchell, the Vice Provost for Online Learning at Stanford, says the university offers these course as a public service.

“We’re teachers. This is what we love to do. If we can see people around the world learning from us, that’s rewarding. That’s what gets us up in the morning,” Mitchell said.

These free courses are also meant to entice students to apply to Stanford or enroll in other online classes that are not free. While online education is expanding the reach of major universities, Mitchell says they will not replace the on-campus experience.

But David Stavens, who taught at Stanford and recently co-founded a free online university called Udacity, says a quality education is becoming too expensive for most people.

“It’s a good system for a lot of people but there is another set of people who are equally smart, equally determined, equally hard working but who don’t quite fit into the mold, and it’s an unfair system for them,” Stavens said.

While Udacity is a for-profit company, the vast majority of its courses are free and they are developed specifically for online students. They include short videos, followed by exercises designed to engage the student and reinforce the lesson.

Students can pay for video conference tutoring or use the free chat rooms to discuss problems with their peers.  

While the number of universities offering online classes is growing, some classes are free and others are not.  The Khan Academy is a non-profit free website that contains over 3,500 video classes in a variety of languages and is utilized by six million people each month.
 
Salman Khan founded the company. He says it wasn't difficult to recruit donors like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation by offering a quality education to everyone in the world.  

“Anytime, with so little incremental on your part, you can create essentially an unlimited potential on someone else’s part, I think it would be a shame not to do it,” Khan said.

Critics say there are flaws with online education, citing studies that show a higher drop out rate for online students. But proponents say the evolving technology is coming together to open up new educational opportunities as never before to millions around the world.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs