Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Free online college courses becoming increasingly popular

There are thousands of universities all across the country students attend, but online courses and lessons are becoming more prevalent.

A simple online search for “free online college courses” yields results like Khan Academy, MIT’s OpenCourseWare, Tufts’ OpenCourseWare and Opening Learning Initiative from Carnegie Melon University.

All of these websites are aimed not only at 20-somethings, but at teachers, parents, grandparents – anyone interested in education at a collegiate level. Lessons on most of these sites are from professors and industry leaders across the nation.

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Tufts University, located just outside of Boston, Mass., has a population of about 10,000 students. Robin Smith, a Tufts OpenCourseWare editor, said she is very happy with how things have taken off since Tufts OpenCourseWare opened online in 2005.

“Our president at the time, Laurence Bacow, had previously worked at MIT and was onboard with the idea from the start. … We were asked to participate initially because we could provide health sciences courses which MIT didn’t offer,” Smith said. “Subsequently we have added course material from all schools. The materials are offered for the benefit of educators, students and self-learners around the world, and the project reflects Tufts’ mission of civic engagement and knowledge sharing.”

Smith said there is a wide variety of courses people can take, including classes in biostatistics, foundations of nutrition science and basic human pathology. She said the number of users and courses continues to rise on a daily basis.

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“There have been almost 4.4 million visits to the Tufts OCW website,” Smith said. “Users come from 219 countries and territories around the world. Top reasons for coming to the site indicated by users were for personal learning, planning a course of study, complementing a course being taken, keeping current in the field and teaching preparation. We also receive requests from authors/publishers to include content in commercial textbooks and journal articles.”

While many use these sites each day, some people prefer learning in a traditional-style classroom. Connor Barlow, a sophomore majoring in business, is one of those students.

“It sort of seems like it’s easy, but it can be hard at times,” Barlow said. “I love the time it gives me, and working at my own pace is great, but the downside is that grades always take forever to be uploaded, and that work can pile up quickly.”

Ruben Pickering, a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering, said he is not convinced either. Pickering, who is taking a distance learning class, said he would rather be in a traditional class.

“All of my tests are online, and my homework is as well,” Pickering said. “From what I have heard, I wish I was in a class that was 100 percent in class. Online doesn’t have practice tests or old tests [for] you to study from.”

(See also “Students earn master’s degrees on one-year track“)

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