gffasset-1-cutWhat if I told you that you can now take online courses taught by Stanford, Princeton, and other university professors without setting foot on campus or even paying one cent?

As unbelievable as it sounds, this is quickly becoming a reality, thanks to the emergence of new online education providers like Coursera, Udacity and edX.  While the specifics and available courses differ from one company to the next, the concept is quite similar: world-class education should be available to anyone, anywhere, regardless of educational background or socioeconomic status.

Don’t be fooled by the lack of a price tag, however.  These courses are no joke. Expect demanding, university-level curriculum in topics ranging from “Intro to Computer Science” and “Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Computation” to “Listening to World Music” and “Modern and Contemporary American Poetry.” Courses are offered for six to ten week stretches throughout the year and during the summer.  There are no textbooks to buy or application forms to fill out.

You won’t get college credit for your effort, but you will get a taste of what it’s like to take a college course before you go to college. And what a terrific way to consider whether you’re interested in a subject before you commit to it (and pay for it) in college!

Parents, you can get into the act, too. Have you always wanted to explore world music, delve into behavioral psychology, or consider computational investing? Here’s your chance. There are no prerequisites and courses are open to anyone.

While much remains to be seen regarding the future of such educational providers, with everyone from CNN to the New York Times chiming in and dropping sound bites like “…the future of higher education” and “…reaction has been overwhelming,” I imagine this is not the last we’ll hear or see from this burgeoning industry.

Besides – when it costs absolutely nothing, what do you have to lose?



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