From England to El-Salvador and America to Armenia, people all over the world are now students of some of the world’s most renowned Universities, through online platforms such as Coursera.org. As one student of Coursera remarks, it’s “Higher education that overcomes the boundaries of geography, time and money”. Online courses mean that you can now learn from wherever you are: on the bus, in the field, at home. ‘Free’ means that access to knowledge is now at the fingertips of anyone with internet access, including people in the developing world.
Coursera offers over 200 free online courses from Algorithm Design to Astronomy, from top Universities such as Stanford. Since it’s launch earlier this year it now has over 2million ‘Courserians’. Which is pretty impressive.
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s over 7 billion people in the world, approximately 34% of which are connected to the internet. That means there is a pool of around 2.3 billion people who could access these courses. Even if just 10% of those individuals are interested in online learning, that’s still a heck of a big market. This is especially in countries where it would be geographically and practically impossible to study at a US/world-renowned University.
Globally, the cost (both in time and fees) for physically attending and undertaking formal degree courses are at all all time high. Will free online courses lead to the democratisation of education? Let’s hope so.