College courses for no cost: Coursera.org

education

By guest writer Sarah Yowell

With nearly 250,000 people unemployed in DFW, it’s getting harder and harder to find a well-paying job and keep it.  Annual tuition and fees at a local university start at $5,000, making it difficult to go back to school and advance in your career.  Coursera just might be the answer.

Coursera.org is one of the leading websites of its kind, offering free massively open online courses, or MOOCs, and has become the new wave of learning.  With more than 30 participating universities, many of them ivy-league, and over 200 courses, you don’t have to wonder why.

Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, both professors in the Computer Science Department at Stanford University, birthed Coursera with the dream to bring higher education to the masses, thus improving the lives of their students and those around them.

“Education should be a right, not a privilege, and I believe Coursera is a way to make that happen,” states Koller in her personal bio on Coursera.org.

Koller has received multiple awards in her field and has written over 180 peer-reviewed publications.

Ng is Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab, author or co-author of over 150 published papers in machine learning, and recipient of many awards and honors in Artificial Intelligence.

MOOCs do not generally offer college credit for completing their courses, opting for a certificate of completion instead.  Some universities have been willing to offer a transferable credit for completed Coursera studies to students already enrolled at their college, but that hasn’t necessarily been the norm.

Because Coursera doesn’t offer college credit presently, the  creators are working to break that barrier.  They have recently begun collaborating with the American Council on Education to initiate a credit-equivalence evaluation through ACE’s College Credit Recommendation Service.  The approved completed Coursera courses will potentially be eligible for transfer credit at colleges who accept the ACE recommendations.

“We created Coursera to help students overcome major barriers to traditional education access, and providing credit-bearing college courses is a huge milestone toward that goal,” says Ng on Coursera’s blog.

Another barrier students face is the ever growing cost of college. “In recent years, the rising cost of higher education has had a devastating impact on students, many of whom struggle and often fail to complete their degrees,” added Koller.  “We hope that by providing top-quality courses that have the potential of academic credit, we can allow more students to enter college with some credit already accrued, and exit college on time, on budget and with a complete degree in hand.”

Coursera not only hopes to allow people to expand their education, but to also help them get that job or raise they have been hoping for.  They have just begun offering a recruiting service students can opt-in for that matches them up with positions within their skills, knowledge and interests.  The student has the power to choose which courses are shared and Coursera sends the information along to potential employers.  Coursera is partnered up with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, AppDirect and TrialPay and has already had good feedback with some of these partnered companies praising the quality of candidates that come from Coursera.

The website is only offering recruiting services to software engineers at this time but hopes to open up their Career Services to other fields in the near future.

If you’re interested in joining the rapidly climbing 2.1 million Courserians, the website to check out is http://www.coursera.org.  They already have a majority of their classes listed, scheduled to start any time between January and September, so it won’t be hard to plan around any courses you’d like to take.

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