August 17, 2009

Learning For Free: MIT Online Courses

Filed under: Digital Distribution, Information Supernova — Robert John Ed @ 10:15 pm

Learning for free is pretty interesting to me (as are most things that don’t cost me anything).  Some amazing things are happening due to the centralization of knowledge online.

I’d like to learn French.  I don’t have an especially good reason why, except for the fact that it is spoken in many areas of the world and could be valuable.  Two years ago or so, I found a site online called LiveMocha, which teaches many different languages for free online.  I began the French program and it’s well set up.  I didn’t complete it; the onset of business school and my lack of time has put an end to that.  I still plan on learning it, after school.  I’ll likely take classes, it adds accountability and expectations.  It makes you put skin in the game.  But is it better to have skin in the game?  Especially if there are means to acquire the very same knowledge for free?

Today I went to the MIT website because they are apparently beginning a process of putting their knowledge, their educational tools, online!  Check out the list of classes, it’s immense.

There are many questions to be asked.  What happens when the most revered educational institutions digitize their content and give it away?  Do their brands become any less effective?  I don’t think so.  What about the cost of classes, should they be going down?  The site points out that using these materials is no surefire way to anything at all; it’s not a degree, there is no credit associated with these things.  If anything, cost of classes in person go up to pay for the online content.  Is that fair?  Good question.

Two very ominous things jump at me here.  The value of the content.  Is it less or more when given away for free?  I think both sides could be argued with merit.  Secondarily, the ability to learn from this kind of content.  If the most prominent educators in the world are doing this, there’s a good reason for it.  Who will optimize the experience?  Will this become the standard for learning?  When will the publishers extrapolate credit bearing online content and how much would it cost?  This will change the way we learn.  Eventually, anyway.  I think I’ll spend some time on Game Theory for Managers and get a better feel for how the content is structured, maybe I’ll post on it later.


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