MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Ever dream of an Ivy League education? It’s possible to get one for free. Schools like Princeton, Harvard and Stanford are offering courses online at no cost.
“There were 40,000 students enrolled in the class this summer,” said Prof. Mitchell Duneier from Princeton University.
Forty-thousand students took professor Duneier’s “Massive Open Online Course” or “MOOC” for free, thanks to a partnership between Princeton University and Coursera, an education startup founded by 2 Stanford professors in 2011.
“If you are a working professional, it’s tough to go back to school every Tuesday and Thursday to take classes. But with online education, now it is much more convenient,” said Andrew Ng, Coursera co-founder.
MOOCS are reshaping the higher education landscape and they are catching on. Coursera now has partnership with 16 top universities including Brown, Columbia, Emory, and Vanderbilt universities, as well as Berklee College of Music and Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
The foreign universities added are Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of British Columbia, University of London, University of Melbourne, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Coursera said.
New additions include five public institutions: Ohio State University, the University of Florida, University of Pittsburgh, University of Maryland and University of California, Irvine. So who’s taking these free classes and what are they doing with them?
“I think it will help lend credibility to some of the concepts that I’m talking to my clients about,” said Meghan Wilker, a Coursera student.
“To do my consultancy better, to help my customers better, I needed to get a depth of knowledge in a subject area,” said Andrew Woodward, another Coursera Student.
A Coursera survey found a majority of students taking a machine learning class last summer were working professionals, hoping to improve their skills for their current job, or get themselves a better one. Only 3-and-a-half percent were unemployed.
“There is a gap between training and unemployment that can be addressed. And I think that if you are unemployed, a good way to spend some of your time is conducting some training, so that you maintain your skills and also develop new skills,” said Debra Wheatman, president of Careers Done Write.
For now, you can’t get a degree from Coursera or college credit.
Coursera students admit that’s not all that’s missing from the free class; they don’t get the college experience, making friends on an actual campus.
“That’s the kind of experience that someone taking an online class unfortunately will not have. Many of the people that I had in my class this summer were not choosing between a Princeton class and an online class, they were choosing between an online class and no class at all,” Wheatman said.
Some of the classes offered by Coursera include Mathematical Biostatistics Boot Camp from Johns Hopkins University and Writing in the Sciences from Stanford.