Online education has been around since the 1990s, but it has been growing at an incredible speed in the last few years. For example, in less than a year, several prestigious universities, including Stanford and Princeton, have begun offering online courses through a consortium called Coursera, a for-profit company backed by $16 million in venture capital.
Founded by two Stanford computer professors earlier this year, Coursera has partnered with more than 30 top universities to offer nearly 200 online courses free of charge. 1.5 million students from around the world have already enrolled in classes through Coursera, and the company’s next step is to explore ways to turn a profit for its investors, such as charging a fee for certifications.
The Value of Coursera’s Online Classes
Although Coursera does not award actual degrees, the education it offers still has value. In fact, Coursera has helped people find better jobs by equipping them with specific skills that employers seek. Education should not stop once you get a degree, and Coursera provides a wonderful opportunity to continue your education free of charge.
Coursera’s online courses have also allowed universities to take lectures out of their face-to-face classes and offer them online instead, so they can make room for more interactive engagement in the classroom. According to National Public Radio, Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller said that in five or 10 years, people are going to wonder why universities ever crammed 500 people into an auditorium to listen to a lecture for an hour and a half. However, Koller believes that brick-and-mortar campuses will still have a place, because certain aspects of the traditional learning experience cannot be replicated online.
How Coursera Is Changing the Face of Education
Some universities are still hesitant to join the online education revolution, but a growing number of institutions, such as the universities partnering with Coursera, have embraced online learning, because they want to play a part in shaping its development. Coursera democratizes education, making it available to people in far-flung areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa, where access to education is limited.
While online courses do not offer the same experience as on-campus classes, they have their advantages. Coursera gives adult learners around the world an opportunity to obtain a top-tier education and qualify for better jobs. It is possible that in 10 to 20 years, companies like Coursera will dramatically change the way that universities operate.