A lot of top universities like MIT, UC Berkley, Harvard, UT among others are beginning to upload their courses online and freely available to everyone. This opens up a lot of alternatives for prospective learners, specially international students, students from low-income families and students with active jobs.
Let's look at the advantages of this system:
1. It is free.
2. Anyone with internet access can have access to all these courses.
3. Students are not confined to a particular set of courses which would otherwise be mandatory for their major/minor.
4. Freedom of time. Students can take classes at a time of their choice.
5. Freedom of place. Students don't have to present at the university to take the courses. This takes out the requirement of relocation.
6. Freedom from the cumbersome application and shortlisting process to get into college.
Let's look at some of the statistics of the courses at MIT OpenCourseWare:
Number of courses: 2260
Number of monthly visitors: 2 million
Total visitors: 175 million
Users (according to audience):
- Educators: 9%
- Students: 42%
- Self learners: 43%
- Other: 6%
Users (according to region):
- North America: 44%
- Russia: 17%
- China: 20%
- India: 9%
- Other: 10%
This statistic shows that a lot of people not only from North America, but also other parts of the world are leveraging the benefits of the system. Quality education is no longer associated with the top-notch American universities but is available to every corner of the world.
The problem with this system, however, is that there is no kind of certification associated with the courses. Part of this is because dedicated resources cannot be assigned for evaluating learners since the system is free. Therefore, these courses are not deemed a useful benchmark for selecting candidates in the industry. Another problem to the system is the inherent need for self-motivation. The learner is expected to be motivated all through the course and do assignments on time specially knowing that there is no one evaluating them. If we can solve these problems, I think this would be a game-changer in the education industry (which according to me should be a human right and not an 'industry').
One of my suggestion to take on this problem would be to enable peer grading. It has its own sets of flaws but I am sure things can be worked out if a systematic approach to it.