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Posted : 2012-05-23 17:44
Updated : 2012-05-23 17:44

Free ‘iVy League’ education


By Chris Hoaldridge

Have you ever dreamed of studying at one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, such as Harvard, MIT, or Stanford?

If so, brace yourself and get ready for some exciting news. Anyone, regardless of academic qualifications, can now receive a world-class education from a top-ranked American university, free of charge. What is the catch? Actually, there is only one admission requirement: an Internet connection.

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a revolutionary development in online education. These free virtual courses are opening classroom doors to hundreds of thousands ― and potentially millions ― of people around the globe who seek access to a top-notch education at some of the world’s best universities, including Ivy League schools.

Now, Korean university students can enroll in high-caliber courses taught by distinguished American professors, just like the 289 Korean undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at Harvard and the 280 at MIT, without ever having to set foot in Cambridge, Mass.

You may already be familiar with OpenCourseWare (OCW), free Web-based course materials provided by many universities, including MIT (ocw.mit.edu), Yale (oyc.yale.edu), and the University of California, Berkeley (webcast.berkeley.edu). MIT OCW, for example, offers 2,100 online versions of actual MIT courses and has been used by over 100 million students worldwide since its launch in 2002.

OCW course materials, however, are often limited to syllabi, reading lists, lecture notes, and videotaped lectures, thereby creating a largely passive learning experience for students.

MOOCs, on the other hand, are transforming free online education as we know it by providing students with a much more active learning experience, as they include not only engaging videotaped lectures, but also interactive learning content, such as embedded quizzes and exams, peer-to-peer feedback, and question and answer forums.

And as if that is not exciting enough, while MOOCs do not offer college credit, many of them do offer (drum roll, please!) certificates of completion.

Coursera (coursera.org), an online learning portal launched in April, currently offers 40 courses, ranging from Introduction to Finance to Contemporary American Poetry, taught by professors from Princeton, Stanford, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Another Web-based learning platform, Udacity (udacity.com), established last year, hosts six courses, including Building a Search Engine and Web Application Engineering. Students can even take Design of Computer Programs with Peter Norvig, Google’s director of research. English captions and scripts are also available for all video lectures.

Perhaps the most exciting new development in free online learning was the announcement on May 2 of edX (edxonline.org), a joint online education venture between MIT and Harvard, which will begin offering MOOCs under the MITx and Harvardx brands during fall 2012. The first trial course, Introduction to Circuits and Electronics, attracted 120,000 students during its March launch through MITx.

As you can imagine, the new educational opportunities MOOCs offer students, educators, and working professionals in Korea, as elsewhere worldwide, are extraordinary. High school and university students looking to study in the United States, for instance, could experience top-tier collegiate-level coursework while also preparing for the TOEFL, which requires a solid command of academic English.

Teachers and professors, as well, could supplement their lessons with high-quality video lectures taught by other experts in their field. Instructors could even implement a “flipped classroom” teaching model, whereby students watch video lectures beforehand, thus freeing up more valuable class time for interactive instructor-assisted learning activities.

Certificates of completion could also enable both university students and working professionals to enhance their resumes with newly acquired skills and knowledge. MOOC content could even play a role in many Korean universities’ globalization efforts, as they strive to offer more courses in English and attract a larger number of international students.

Clearly, this new trend in online education can meet the needs of Korean students, educational institutions, and companies in numerous innovative ways. Get online now and join this exciting, and free, ``iVy League” revolution.

The writer is an assistant professor at the Center for Foreign Language Education at Dongguk University in Seoul. He has been living and teaching English in Korea since 2004. Email him at chrishoaldridge@dongguk.edu.

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