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Free Education? Consider OCW

Oct 07, 2010

Just how much is college? Annual expenses for in-state students at four-year public schools average $15,000. Students at private colleges typically spend $35,000 each year. What's worse, higher ed costs are rising by 6% each year. OpenCourseWare (OCW) offers you a no-cost alternative to paying skyrocketing college expenses.

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Did You Say Free?

If you're preparing to take college classes, you may be bracing yourself for rising tuition rates, expensive university accommodations, overpriced textbooks and elevated living expenses. But what if you could have access to college courses without paying a small fortune? OpenCourseWare (OCW) gives you the opportunity to take free classes from some of the world's finest institutions, all from the comfort of your own home.

To many, the idea of completely free online access to college courses might seem like a concept from some utopian future. But in fact, the idea of sharing college-level materials online has been around for about a decade. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) served as an important early proponent of the cause, providing most of its course materials as OpenCourseWare on the Web beginning in 2002.

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OpenCourseWare: A Tutorial

Before the Internet, to be a part of a college-level course, you kind of had to be there. With OpenCourseWare, that's no longer the case. But what exactly is OCW? The OpenCourseWare Consortium, a leading organization in the movement, states: 'OpenCourseWare is a free and open digital publication of high quality university-level educational materials. These materials are organized as courses, and often include course planning materials and evaluation tools as well as thematic content.'

Basically, you're a few clicks away from accessing course materials, lectures, videos and class notes for all kinds of courses from dozens of the world's preeminent colleges and universities. You can start the search for classes that appeal to you by making your first click here.

OCW free online classes

Is OCW Right for You?

That depends. OpenCourseWare works best for those who are self-motivated learners. There won't be any professor around, after all, to keep you on task. And it is really only an option for those who don't need a degree - OCW is not designed to formally recognize students' work. While there are potential limitations, OpenCourseWare does offer access to classes in virtually any subject area that you might be interested in.

The idea behind OCW is a powerful one. And in practice, it really can reach the OpenCourseWare Consortium's vision of a world 'where everyone, everywhere is able to access affordable, educationally and culturally appropriate opportunities to gain whatever knowledge or training they desire.'

Want to learn more about OpenCourseWare? Check out the website of the OpenCourseWare Consortium. The organization's course catalog features more than 3,800 courses in seven languages.

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