MOOC's or Massive Open Online Courses, are often free, and have recently enrolled up to 160,000 students in a single course. (Stanford's online course in Artificial Intelligence drew 160,00 initial registrants from 160 countries, although only a fraction of that number finished the course.) Methods for assessment are still being figured out but elite universities are in a mad scramble to be the first in on this new technology. Here are some of the big players in new MOOC's:
- Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was the first I knew about. MIT Opencourseware was rolled out around 2005 or so, and had an initial goal of making every single course available free to the world. I was there for a 2 week course in 2008 and there was an undergrad lurking in the back with a video camera, archiving everything. She said the system was backed up and, given their small staff of archivers, our class lectures wouldnt appear online anytime soon. This will be superseded probably by their new EdX program.
- Coursera is perhaps the best funded at this early stage. Coursera is a $22 million joint effort for Cal Tech, Duke, Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins, Rice, UCSanFran, U of I Champaign-Urbana, Uof W, and U of V. They have covered math, science, and engineering so far but plan to expand. Of these, the University of Washington will be the first to offer actual credit for course completion, starting in Fall 2012.
- EdX is the initiative from Harvard and MIT, and now, University of California, Berkeley. They currently offer courses on AI, software engineering, computer science, biostatistics & epidemiology, circuits, and solid state chemistry. They have 120 potentially partnering universities around the world. EdX initial offering last fall, Electric Circuits, had 150,000 enrolled students, aged 14 to 74, worldwide.
- Udacity is run by a Stanford graduate and offered the above-mentioned course on A.I. that had 160,000 registrants.
- 2Tor is connected with Hooked On Phonics and The Princeton Review (but not Princeton the University).
One likely system may be to have the free course offer a certificate of accomplishment and a credit-granting version of the same course be available if the student pays a fee and interacts with an instructor somehow.