To get a degree, you’ve either got to have well-off parents, rob a bank, or get yourself into massive debt before you’ve even found a job – and that’s if you can find one with the job market being so competitive. Luckily, getting educated is getting easier. In fact, there are universities all over the world that now offer free access to their courseware.

What is MOOC?

If you’re familiar with the digital world, you’ve probably already heard of open courseware or Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). Most of these are offered by higher education institutions around the world and they are structured just like their in-class equivalents – with quizzes, tests, reading material and online forums.

But the point we’re trying to make is not that these platforms exist. Rather, we’re highlighting what they mean for education as we know it.

MOOC benefits

Apart from the obvious student benefits, like flexibility, accessibility, and the non-existent cost of education, free online courseware has other perks.

Offering some of your courses online for free is an excellent marketing tool. Even small, relatively unknown institutions are getting several thousand more enrolments by offering just an intro course for free. The trick is then inviting students to continue at regular rates.

Another pro is that people all over the world can access courses from universities anywhere on the globe – making any courseware accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Not bad for a university in, say, China, offering a course on ‘Tibetan Meditation in the Modern World’. This could, for example, put SA’s universities on the international map.

Looking ahead

The most some institutions will offer is a certificate of completion, but there are some students like Laurie Pickard with her NoPayMBA who are consolidating the free courses to make up the equivalent of a Master’s degree. The next logical step would be to build an organisation that puts accredited MOOC-based qualifications together. Someone?

Who knows how far this trend will go? As more organisations experiment with different variations and partners, more breakthroughs are emerging.

The implications

Free online education is reducing the barriers to higher education; making life-long learning easy and attainable. It also reaches hundreds of thousands more people than would have been able to access it before – booming the education industry. But perhaps the biggest implication of all is that it’s forcing educators to revaluate what valid education really is.