Get Updates by Email

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Cheap, Free Education

Picture a young man, fresh out of college, combing through the day's newspapers for the classifieds section. He is looking at the job advertisements, and he eyes the prestigious jobs that he has long been dreaming of: manager, administrative, etc. Then he notices that each job requires some years of experience, and university education. But he only has a diploma, or perhaps a high school certificate.

Twenty years ago, that young man would have been encouraged to work full time, and study part time. Upon graduating from his night classes, he would be perfectly poised to get a promotion, or switch employers to a better paying job. But today, that route might appear a little arduous. After all, night classes require a substantial amount of financial investment, and those who are married with kids may not be able to work the lean years and still afford to pay for expensive tuition. Education has gone up in price, in many countries. However, in response to the rising cost of education, some entrepreneurs -- many from academia -- have taken it upon themselves to change the face of education, by providing free education.

Today, there is free education available online. Some of it may culminate in a proper certificate, like a degree, or a certificate. Most of it has been made possible by the increasing capabilities of the Internet, and what our computers can accomplish with an Internet connection. For an example of a university conferring degrees for free: The University of the People was established with the goal of providing free, accredited education. For the moment it has bachelor degree-level programs in Business Administration and Computer Science. I'm not sure how they make their money, but it is a noble goal. Readers may like to note, that on its website, the University of the People says that they offer tuition-free education, but do collect processing fees for applications for new students, and processing exams at the end of each course.

That young man at the beginning of the article, that you pictured in your mind, might be smiling if he knew about the University of the People. But more than that, perhaps he might enjoy learning that there are other providers of free education. At the moment these are in the form of MOOC's: Massive, Open, Online Courses. I have given some of them a try, and I have managed to complete a number of them. Mind you, it isn't easy, and can be quite punishing for those with tight schedules and heavy workloads. How would you find the time to watch videos and churn out assignments that will be peer-graded? But if you do persevere, you may (it doesn't apply for all courses) find yourself the proud recipient of a Certificate of Completion for a certain course. These can be accumulated over time, to show to a prospective employer. At the moment, I recommend EdX, Coursera, Open2Study, and Iversity. Other players in the industry include Futurelearn and Coursesites.