It has been said that information is power, and that those who hold the information hold the power. In a modern world where technology is being utilized in new and exciting ways literally every day, the field of online education has experienced rapid expansion in recent years. The application of technological advancements to the area of higher education has made it possible for students to receive an education from literally anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately, cost factors often prohibit students from the United States and around the world to attend online courses to earn a degree in their chosen field of study. To address this inequality of access to information, many institutes of higher learning have chosen to make their educational materials available online free of charge.
One example of this trend is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Open Courseware project. This respected institution has been making over 2,000 courses available online for nearly 11 years, and has recently announced that they will now be offering certificates of completion to students who demonstrate mastery of given courses. The certificates will cost only a nominal fee, and although they do not carry the same weight as a degree, they can still indicate to potential employers that a student has a thorough knowledge of the subject area in question.
Another online venue for free education is the University of California at Berkeley’s Webcast database. Since 1995, the University has been offering free audio and video of undergraduate courses online. This means that anyone with an Internet connection has access to the same course materials as a UC Berkeley student. In fact, the program has become so popular that a Creative Commons license has been applied to the materials, and they are now available through such services as YouTube and iTunesU.
These are just two examples of major institutions that are pioneering the movement to provide equal access to information in the form of higher education materials. They have been joined by other educational institutions, such as Tufts University, as well as other, less traditional ventures such as Wikiversity, University of the People, OpenLearn, Academic Earth, and the OpenCourseWare Consortium in a truly revolutionary view and approach to learning.