Free Online Courses

If you haven’t been paying attention to the continuing development of online courses being offered for free by major colleges and universities, you really should start looking if you have the desire but not the money to learn all sorts of things.

Currently I am taking a 6-week Berklee College of Music course on Introduction To Music Production (i.e., how to set up and use a computer-based recording studio), and next month will take Introduction To Music Improvisation by well-known musician Gary Burton. Both of these, as well as courses in Intro Guitar and Songwriting, are offered through the Coursera site, which also has tons of courses in many subjects from 62 world universities. These are “live” courses – the class presentation is on video, but there are assignments with deadlines and forums where you can interact with other students.

Individual major universities also have open, free course material that can be viewed at your leisure – MIT’s OpenCourseWare was one of the first, and they are now part of the edX collaborative with Harvard, Wellesley, McGill, Rice and others.

Most of these free opportunities do not earn you official college credit – but if you want to know about the subjects presented for your own use and education these are a great resource. And given the cost of a college education these days plus the difficulty grads have getting a job in their fields afterwards, we may be evolving ways to harness people’s skills without needing an expensive piece of sheepskin – check out this NPR piece on doing brain research via public computer games, and another on a new book about hacking your education.