One of the things that make me really happy as a freelancer is the fact that I have a good command of my working hours. And in the middle of the writing grind, I decided to spend a fraction of my time in upgrading myself academically without leaving my house or paying for any expensive tuition fees. Guess what I discovered in my first month as a freelancer? Two websites offering free education! It’s Coursera and Khan Academy. I am sharing this because these websites deserve to be known especially to those who never get tired of learning new things.
(Many thanks to my friend RK for telling me about Coursera on Facebook. And thanks to my other friend Ernest for telling me about Khan Academy via Twitter!)
Thanks to the window of time that my schedule has provided me, I am learning a lot of new concepts from a professor from University of Michigan for Finance class and a professor in Princeton University for the recently concluded Intro to Sociology class. The frontiers of education has now expanded from Ivy League schools to commoners like me because of the courses offered in Coursera. They have a lot of courses on just about anything.
And mind you, it’s not a wishy-washy type of FREEBIE that you just download and let rot in your hard drive. It takes hard work to achieve. There is a syllabus, a series of video lectures, a mid-term, a final exam, and weekly homeworks. At the end of each course, there are required grade point averages in the assignments that will eventually lead to a certificate signed by the professor. It’s really awesome! Never have I imagined that I can experience this kind of education at the comforts of my home.
I sleep less to meet the assignment deadlines but it’s all so WORTH IT! Here is my virtual scratchpad for accomplishing my first accomplished assignment for the Professor’s Gautam’s Finance course. I got a 100 even if this spreadsheet is super messy, so it’s all cool:
Sure, it does not resemble the typical classroom experience. But this is actually what gives the setup more charm to people like me. When you have no time to attend classes in an institution twice to five times a week, you can replay the professor’s videos and just make sure that you submit the assignments on time. There are virtual classmates from all over the world who are interested and enrolled in the same course. In fact, my Coursera Finance course already has an all-Filipino study group page on Facebook with over 100 members. When I was about to give up on catching up on all of Professor Gautam’s videos, I was deeply moved by the enthusiasm that I saw in them there and it pushed me to really make time to meet the requirements during the first week.
While Coursera offers a very rigid school-like structure in the course, Khan Academy is another website that contains isolated lectures on anything. The website is also filled with different academic topics that are discussed via various video tutorials and webinars but they are often stand alone and single, not constituting an entire series or producing certificates of accomplishment.
These days, OPEN SOURCE is no longer a buzz word. It’s actually happening. I used to think that I cannot have an Ivy League education because of my socioeconomic constraints. But at least I got a whiff of it now. There are professors in those universities who want to give back and share what they know to the whole world. And their passion to disseminate and promote learning in the way they do now is super inspiring. Nobody with a computer and Internet connection can say that they have no access to education because it’s all there already.
I am still amazed, and I don’t mind being a Coursera and Khan Academy fan girl. I really am fangirling right now.
I hope these two websites last for generations and generations to come.
And to the Coursera and Khan Academy team, thank you so much. You are enriching so many intellectual lives with this venture of yours. 🙂