OK, way off-topic this month, but I’ve got a subject that (hopefully) many of you will find interesting.
My wife actually discovered www.Coursera.org, an online education site that offers college-level classes for free. I’ve been signing up for classes and have definitely been converted into a fan for life. I’ve also shared this website with colleagues, who I’ve found to be pretty enthusiastic about using it.
The actual courses are not provided by Coursera itself, but by member universities both national and international. So far, I have taken courses offered by the Wharton School and by the University of Maryland, but there are offerings from Northwestern, Rice, University of California, University of Copenhagen, Ecole Centrale Paris – the list goes on and on. There are currently more than 600 courses, mostly taught in English, but there are a variety of courses offered in other languages as well.
I’ve been concentrating primarily on business-related courses, but they also offer courses in art, history, science, health, nutrition – you name it. In general, courses last between four and nine weeks. There will be a set number of online lectures that you can watch, followed by some type of weekly assignment. At the end, you receive a certification that you completed the course; however, if you don’t care much for the certification, you’re free to watch the lectures and skip the assignments. There are also forums associated with the courses to connect with other students for questions or to share ideas.
I’ve found it very easy to fit into my schedule: the lectures are around a half-hour in length, so I just shut my door at lunch and watch one, or just fit one in when I get home from work. I generally save the assignments or tests for the weekend. Some of the courses require you to follow their schedule, but others have all the lectures and tests available from the beginning so I’ve found it worthwhile to work ahead and get a jump on the assignment deadlines.
I mentioned that it’s free, right? Whether you’re interested in professional development, general education or just for fun, it’s a tremendous resource. You can get more details at www.Coursera.org. While this isn’t an official endorsement from Sherpa Software, I give the site my own personal thumbs up.