#815 Log on in Atlin, BC; study with prof in Melbourne

Naval seaman teaching nun to use computer

Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo, U.S. Navy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We would need many lifetimes to take advantage of the wealth of resources the World Wide Web delivers to our computers, tablets and smart phones. One I did not know about until Tess Healy clued me in is Coursera. It offers university-level classes, from the some of the finest academic institutions in the world, with some of the world’s leading professors. Not only that, Coursera is working with translation partners to provide complete lectures in many languages. And the cost to participants is…access to an Internet connection.

The courses are interactive. Students are asked to do exercises, answer questions during videos and complete homework. Since computer grading is not the best way to assess some assignments, Coursera offers peer assessments, where people comment on and grade each other’s work.

Offerings like these made my brain cells salivate:

Whew, and that’s after scanning only a fraction of the offerings. Coursera offers a feast for the mind. The company has been able to attract venture capital to license the courses through academic institutions such as Berkeley, Princeton and Yale and others in Zurich, Toronto, Alberta, Melbourne, Leiden, China and Hong Kong.

What is ahead for the future of open-access studies is anyone’s guess, just as it is for news media. But the barn door has been unlocked. The cows are out. Rather than try to lock the door again, we can create new models for making information and resources both readily available and economically viable, as Apple has done with iTunes.

Technological changes are dizzying for those of us born before the era of television, but they are making it possible to share knowledge and resources in new and earth-friendlier ways. Coursera gives me hope.

You can follow Coursera on Google+, Twitter, Facebook and the company’s blog.

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