Monday, April 17, 2006

Free College Courses

Free Online College Courses
There are great resources available for teachers and students from some of the top universities in the world. Entire college courses and their materials are available online and a subset of courses have every lecture available in audio or video format.

Each course has a combination of 1 or more of the following course materials:

  • Lecture Notes – usually in PDF form (requires Adobe PDF Reader)

  • Lecture Audio – usually in .mp3 format (Windows Media Player, RealPlayer or anything you use to listen to .mp3 music is required)

  • Lecture Video – usually available in RealMedia (RealPlayer required)
  • Homework Assignments and Lecture Handouts (PDF)
  • Exams & Quizzes – with answers !! (PDF)

I will focus on the initiatives of two of the top universities in the United States, M.I.T. and University of California – Berkeley.

MIT OpenCourseWare
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (better known as M.I.T.) is one of the premier universities in the United States with a strong emphasis on engineering and technology. They started a huge initiative with their OpenCourseWare (OCW) project. The MIT OCW charter is best expressed by MIT’s president Susan Hockfield -- “… OpenCourseWare expresses in an immediate and far-reaching way MIT's goal of advancing education around the world. Through MIT OCW, educators and students everywhere can benefit from the academic activities of our faculty and join a global learning community in which knowledge and ideas are shared openly and freely for the benefit of all. “.

MIT OCW is seeking to publish course materials from a majority of the courses they currently offer at MIT (approx 1250 courses). A quick peek at the OCW course list shows the fruits of their labor during the past several years. They also publish lectures for a subset of their courses in audio and/or video format.

MIT also offers a set of special topics lectures from famous guest lectures at their MIT World website.

UC Berkeley
University of California – Berkeley has a great selection of courses and special topic events at their webcast website. Their course list has an impressive selection. The videos I examined for the Intro Biology course are of great quality and the lecture notes (slides) are shown in some of the videos (as opposed to the Intro Biology course of MIT which didn’t focus the camera on the slides the professor was showing the class – a very minor nuisance).

UC Berkeley Events also provides an excellent selection of videos from famous guests and professors that visited the university to speak on a special topics.

Wrapping up
MIT OpenCourseWare project has an extensive and ambitious charter and is a more comprehensive program - especially for teachers; but students may really appreciate the quality of the UC Berkeley videos. Both universities have professors that are giants in their respective fields and anyone with internet access can experience great lectures or can take an entire high-quality college course for FREE !!

It may be time to give up an episode of CSI or a Mexican Novella once in a while and get your “learning on … “