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Open Source Platform Allows Anyone to Create Online Courses

A new nonprofit project started at Stanford called Class2Go brings a collaborative, open source ethos to online learning.


Online learning options like Coursera, EdX, and Udacity have made classes previously accessible only through enrollment at one of the nation's top universities available to the world. But what happens to colleges and universities not partnering with these so-called Massively Open Online Course providers? A new nonprofit project developed by eight Stanford engineers called Class2Go might have a solution. They let anyone in the world use their open source platform to run their own online course for free.

Like many MOOC's, Class2G0 allows users to learn via videos and interactive quizzes. But because the creators "believe strongly that valuable course content shouldn't be tied to any one platform," the videos are housed on mobile device-friendly YouTube. That ethos of portability is at the heart of their Khan Academy-style practice exercises, too. Instead of the exercises "being trapped in a propriety database," they can be used anywhere, the founders say on their site. The creators simply "don't want to built or maintain more than we have to."

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How Do We Make Online Education More Than Video Lectures?

Stanford professor Daphne Koller believes in making online education just like traditional education.

In the past year there's been a real boom in online education platforms, but what sets these models apart from the average lecture-on-demand model? According to Stanford professor Daphne Koller, whose startup Coursera launched in February and has 640,000 students from 190 countries, if they really want to reach the masses, online learning platforms have to provide more than just on-demand video lectures.

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How the 100,000-Student Classroom Came to Life

Peter Norvig, one of the creators of the free online classes being offered by Stanford, shares what he learned about teaching to the globe.

\n\n\n\n\n\n Last fall the kind of education once reserved for students attending the nation's elite colleges and universities became available to everyone, thanks to Stanford professors Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun. They leveled the higher education playing field by offering a virtual version of their reknowned Stanford class, Intro to Artificial Intelligence to the world for free. Over 160,000 students from around the globe signed up for the 10-week class and the enthusiasm around it sparked a MOOC—massive open online course—renaissance.

In this six-minute TED talk, Norvig shares what they learned about teaching to a global classroom. He describes how they borrowed innovations and learnings from various education entities, like the Khan Academy and Teach For America to ensure they had a class that would be "equal or better in quality" than what they offered on campus. They also tapped the expertise of individuals like Benjamin Bloom's findings on one-on-one tutoring and Harvard professor Eric Mazur, an advocate of peer learning. "Peers can be the best teachers, because they're the ones that remember what it's like to not understand," says Norvig.

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The Tricky Calculus of Setting a Price for MIT's Online Courses

Administrators have announced that students in the first class will receive their certificates of completion for free.


Late last year, MIT announced the launch of MITx, a nonprofit online platform that will allow anyone in the world to take the school’s courses for free. Although the university emphasized that MITx isn’t a substitute for a traditional MIT degree, it said that students who completed the classes and demonstrated mastery of the content would be able to receive an official certificate—for a fee.

Registration opened this week for the initiative’s first course, Circuits and Electronics, which is modeled on the traditional introductory class of the same name from MIT’s electrical engineering and computer science departments. Students who register will have access to a course schedule, e-textbook, and discussion board. They'll be expected to watch weekly lectures and demonstrations via video complete practice exercises and homework assignments, and participate in an online lab. They'll also take exams and receive grades.

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A Nonprofit Publisher Puts Another Nail in the $200 Textbook Coffin

OpenStax believes its free books can save students millions.


In his latest State of the Union address, President Obama asked America's colleges and universities to get serious about making higher education more affordable. There are many ways to cut costs at colleges, one of which is lowering tuition fees. But part of easing the financial burden on students is reducing the amount of money they have to shell out every semester for textbooks. OpenStax College, a new nonprofit recently launched at Rice University, hopes to do just that.

According to Inside Higher Education, OpenStax plans to compete with pricey $200 hardback texts from for-profit publishers by offering digital books for five common introductory classes for free, starting with sociology and physics texts this spring. OpenStax is beginning with introductory texts because the information in them is relatively basic and less likely to change year to year. Publishers are frequently accused of filling their coffers by updating textbook editions at random and then convincing professors to adopt the new version. If the OpenStax plan works, the multi-billion-dollar textbook industry could be in trouble.

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Why Digital Textbooks Don't Always Save College Students Cash

A two-year study reveals that going digital doesn't always save students money.


College students spend as much as $1,000 per year on books and supplies, so the advent of electronic textbooks has been heralded as major step forward. But a two-year study by researchers at Daytona State College shows that electronic texts don’t always turn out to be the money-savers students and professors hope they’ll be.

The study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, compared four different textbook distribution models: buying traditional printed books, renting printed books, renting e-textbooks, and renting e-books along with an electronic reader. In three out of four semesters, researchers found that students using electronic texts pilot saved just $1 over the cost of a traditional hardback book. The reason? Publishers typically say the bulk of their costs come from paying textbook writers and researchers, not from printing, so they can't make e-texts less expensive.

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