Earlier this month at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, California, Bill Gates spoke about how people go about accomplishing their college education goals and what the web could potentially do for self-starting young adults. He predicts that in just five years time, you will be able to find the best lectures in the world on the web for free and stressed that college needs to be less “place-based.”
A lot of people have already come out and said Bill Gates is off the mark on this one, but after hearing the comments he made further along with his “predictions,” I’m inclined to agree with where he’s coming from. The overall point he was trying to make is that college, as it is right now and in this country, is too expensive and it’s too hard for young adults (and let’s face it, older adults as well) to get an upper-level education. According to Gates, a major problem with the education system today is text books, saying that even in grade schools, a math text book can be 300 pages — “They’re giant, intimidating books. I look at them and think: what on Earth is in there?” He also pointed out that text book in the U.S. are three times longer than the equivalents in Asia, a country that is currently beating the U.S. in many ways in terms of education and because text books are built by committee, these books are overloaded with information that really doesn’t need to be there.
While Gates’ comments about college education needing to be less “place-based” could very well be seen as radical, there are a number of excellent educational resources online, put online by prestigious and well-known educational institutions, that are free of charge. We’re a lot further with education being available on the web instead of in a typical classroom than many may think, you just have to know where to look to find the information you’re most interested in.
- MIT OpenCourseWare — With over 2,000 courses available online, MIT OpenCourseWare should be your first (and maybe your only) stop in online learning.
- Online Education Database — This website offers up a list of 200 free classes you can take online, from physics classes where you can learn about the phenomenon of superconductivity to algebra classes you struggled with in high school.
- OpenCulture — This website offers up a list of free classes from top universities like Stanford and UC Berkeley, and even some video lectures you can find on YouTube.
- Open Learning Initiative — Free courses, along with self-guided materials, help you learn biology, chemistry, economics and more at your own pace.
- UC Berkeley Webcasts — Skip the sky-high tuition and get free video and audio lectures from UC Berkeley professors.
- Free Online Classes — Get design and Photoshop tutorials to help you in the digital space.
- OpenCourseWare Consortium — This website hosts thousands of classes in several languages. Learn at your own pace, and even scan the professors’ notes, all for free!