The Philadelphia Inquirer today has a really useful roundup of colleges and universities offering online courses—some audio, some full video—for free. They’re available through through iTunes, YouTube, and the international consortium site OpenCourseWare, which has about 13,000 courses from 200 different colleges. Last year, according to the Inquirer, OCW courses were viewed by 15 million people.
We’re talking major-league institutions here. Yale has been a pioneer, with 25 free courses online and 11 more coming this fall, but MIT offers course materials for every single one of its 1,950 courses, including video for 30 of them.
Did I mention that all of this is completely free?
It’s an unbelievable opportunity–anyone with an Internet connection can virtually sit in an MIT classroom! But you’ll forgive me if I immediately start thinking about how it will affect “me, Al Franken” (as Senator Franken used to say on Saturday Night Live). Among all the other blows to my profession, this may prove to be the most devastating. After all, why should someone pay 50K a year in tuition when he or she can experience, for nothing, the lectures of better teachers than yours truly?
Of course, my fellow profs and I will hasten to note that a YouTube lecture provides zero opportunity for interactivity, whether in the form of in-class questions and give-and-take, or comments and grades on coursework. So that’s our Unique Selling Proposition.