An article from USA Today discussed the recent trend of Ivy League and top-tier universities offering free or low-cost online courses. Institutions such as MIT, Princeton, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania are among those offering “open courses” to the public. This model of virtual instruction allows those who are not enrolled in these universities to access the same education and learning materials a student taking the traditional class would have.
In the article, Katrina Trinko suggests that these programs could serve as a substitute for a traditional education. If a high school student doesn’t get into Harvard, for example, they have the option of taking Harvard courses online without being enrolled in the institution. Students win in this situation, as they are able to access the courses without having to be physically in Cambridge or pay the $50,000+/year traditional students do. Additionally, a world-class education is at their fingertips. They are being taught by some of the best professors in the world, and it’s wonderful that this kind of access is now available to anyone with an Internet connection.
It is no doubt that open courses amongst such powerful and established higher institutions are making quality education more accessible to the masses. However, it is important to note that open courses are a relatively new idea. There currently is no universal system (and for many programs, no system at all) put in place to deal with how students could gain credit or legitimacy with the courses they take. Additionally, many course catalogs are limited at this time. Perhaps the system needs to develop a bit more before open courses replace, or are even seen as an alternative, to traditional face-to-face education.
Do you think open learning is the future of higher education? How do you think traditional students feel about their institutions offering open courses? Would you/have you enrolled in an open course? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!