In the last post I talked briefly about Udacity, a free educational platform that offers university lecturers in (for now) Computer Science. Taking a couple of their courses led me to research a bit more about other initiatives related to free higher education. I’ve come across, and experimented with the following:
- Udacity. Founded by Sebastian Thrun, David Stavens, and Mike Sokolsky earlier this year as for-profit online educational institution. As I said in my previous post, try it now!!! I found out about it through reddit before its launch and so far I’m about to finish my second programme there. CS101: Building a Search Engine is the perfect introduction to Computer Science and the Python language. Anyone remotely interested in coding, with no foundations in CS should take it. CS253: Web Application Engineering is the logical continuation to the latter. Taught by Reddit founder Steve Huffman, it takes you through the use of Google App Engine in order to create a blog completely from scratch.
- Coursera. Coursera seems like an initiative from several top-notch universities in the US (including Princeton, Stanford, UPenn, UC Berkeley…) to ‘democratise’ a bit their courses. I have mixed feelings about this one. The courses all look very good and niche. I just enrolled in their Software Engineering for SaaS class, and so far it looks like Coursera is the most similar thing to university for free one will get in the Internet. However (and this might be just a feeling of mine), it looks a bit weird that in the front page they throw at you all the logos of the participant universities, but as soon as one enters a class, the instructors spend half of the introduction video making perfectly clear that this isn’t valid towards an academic qualification, that the course has no relation whatsoever with the university the instructors are coming from, and that no acknowledgements from the university will be given at all on completion of the course. So I got kind of an elitist vibe from that, which I didn’t really like. I’ll probably make another post when I have spent more time at the website.
- The Khan Academy. This one looks very different to the two I’ve just mentioned. The Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that doesn’t aim to substitute university, but to constitute a place where anyone can receive a world-calss education in almost any matter, for free. And so far I’ve been really impressed by it. The range of levels of its classes are so broad they would suit from a 9 years old home schooler, to a postgraduate. I really recommend you guys to take a look and play with it’s assessment activities and watch some of their video lectures. It’s a really amazing website.