Free and Accessible Online Education through Coursera

The University of Toronto has been the only Canadian university that heeded the call for free and accessible higher education over the internet since the company opened last June. is a US-based start-up developed by Stanford University professors. The website uses video lectures, forum discussions, quizzes and assignments to conduct its MOOC or massive open online courses.

Online education courses and internet study worldwide

As of this writing, University of Toronto offers seven courses. Four of which are ongoing, including courses in programming, machine learning and aboriginal studies, while the other three, including courses in statistics and psychology has yet to start.

Some of the professors from the University of Toronto who has made their own coursework available to the world and are willing to conduct the video lectures are Geoffrey Hinton of the Department of Computer Science, Steve Joordens of the Department of Psychology and Jeffrey Rosenthal of the Department of Statistical Sciences.

Coursera allows everyone to get courses from elite universities without having to pay a semester’s worth of tuition. This is enough if you are only after the free knowledge and has no use for a degree or certification. But Coursera is already fixing the process to offer certificate-based courses in the near future, as University of Toronto Vice President and Provost Cheryl Misak announced recently. This is similar to taking up continuing education; the difference is that you only have to pay if you need the certificate.

Co-founder Andrew Ng announced that the company has designed a process to offer identity-verified certificates and conduct online proctored examinations. Also in the works are recommendations from benchmarkers such as the American Council on Education, which will allow Coursera certificate holders to transfer course credits to a degree program, which will hopefully be available very soon.

This option, known as the Signature Track, is now available on some Coursera courses for a fee as low as $30 to as high as $100. This is still very cheap compared to enrolling in a university. The only thing left missing is that they are yet to be creditable toward a college degree but the founders said they are working on this.

The Coursera project has attracted as many as 2.8 million students in less than a year, offering 222 courses from mostly Ivy League universities. As of now, 90 percent or around 280,000 students have completed at least one online course. It won’t be long until education becomes accessible to anyone who wants it for free and to anyone who needs it for a little to no fee.

Mahfuz alam is an volunteer blogger. Now he writing for Student jobs international inc. You can read his  more articles there about student life.

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