Free Online Courses Offered

Compiled By Staff
January 12, 2010

More free, noncredit courses are being offered on the Web by universities, community colleges and businesses.

"We wanted to share our academic treasures more widely with the world," explained Diana E. E. Kleiner, a history of arts professor at Yale who was interviewed by The Philadelphia Inquirer. The university offers 25 free online courses and 11 more are expected to be added this fall.

The Inquirer reports that more than 2 million viewers from nearly 200 countries have viewed Yale's free courses, which are funded by a $3 million, four-year grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. While the courses are the same as those offered for credit to Yale undergraduates, the online versions have no grades, feedback, credit or interaction with faculty.

Steve Carson, external relations director for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's OpenCourseWare site, told the Inquirer that 15 million people watched their free online courses in 2009. The project has even helped with recruiting.

"About half of our incoming students said they have looked at the site," he was quoted as saying in the Inquirer, and he noted that many said that doing so ultimately influenced their college choice.

Free online courses are also proving to be beneficial to the unemployed. KJCT 8 News in Colorado reports that state Governor Bill Ritter recently announced that Microsoft will be bringing free online computer classes to help those out of work brush up on their technological skills.

Gilbert Lujan, who works with the Mesa County Workforce Center, hailed the initiative. "Computers nowadays are everything," he told KJCT 8. "So if a person is well versed say in a certain type of program, or in all programs, that's definitely going to help a person in any industry they go into."

The Mesa County Workforce Center expects that hundreds will be interested in enrolling in the online courses.

Some community colleges are reaching out to the unemployed online as well. The North Carolina Sanford Herald reports that the Central Carolina Community College, for example, will be offering an online class in employability skills, which will cover goal setting, job search plans, interview skills and resume preparation. The course is free to unemployed adults and to those who have received notice of a pending layoff.

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