Would you like to freshen up your programming skills but you are put off by high tuition fees? That excuse doesn’t work anymore. Some top universities are now offering free online technology courses.
It happened to the music industry. It happened to the book industry. Now the Web is doing its inevitable shakedown with higher education.
Pretigious universities like our own University of Toronto offer free online technology courses. In fact, if you demonstrate mastery in a course you can get a certificate from a course offered by Harvard, MIT or UC Berkeley right now for free!
This means some great online learning opportinities for IT workers looking to upgrade their skills and qualifications. It might even be an option for people just getting started with a career in technology.
Is there a Catch?
The biggest issue is getting credit for your online course work. Employers tend to value traditional education more than online training. But that will change quickly as online training gains traction. When the online course is taught by well known professor from a prestigious school, the value of the training is clear.
Another issue is that sometimes the course materials are available online for free but there is a fee if you want to take exams, receive grades and get credits. Luckily that is changing too!
With the edX intiative from Harvard and MIT, you can earn a certificate of completion for an online course offered by Harvard, MIT or UC Berkeley. With Udacity, you can get free certificate for completing one of their technology courses. Or you can pay a fee to take a test for an additional level of certification.
3 Links to Sign Up for Free Online Technology Courses
Here are a three websites where you can take advantage of this explosion of free online technology courses from top universities:
Coursera offers online courses from the top universities in the world for anyone to take, for free. In only six months Coursera has enabled 650,000 students from 190 countries to gain access to 43 different university courses.
We hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.
University of Toronto is currently offering three free technology courses on Coursera:
- Learn to Program the Fundamentals, beginning September 24th, 2012.
- Learn to Program: Crafting Quality Code, date TBA
- Neural Networks for Machine Learning, beginning September 12, 2012
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can also get free courses through Coursera from Stanford, Princton and John Hopkins universities to name a few. .
EdX is an free online training initiative founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Currently edX offers free courses from Harvard, MIT and UC Berkeley. The founders are currently working to include additional universities while maintaining the high level of quality that has already been established in their current course offerings.
- Building Mobile Applications - Learn how to write native apps for Android using Eclipse and the Android SDK, how to write native apps for iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads using Xcode and the iOS SDK, and how to write web apps for both platforms.
Founder: Sebastian Thrun, former Stanford professor and founding head of Google’s advanced-research X Lab.
Mission: Thrum founded Udacity to spark a teaching revolution in which the world’s best instructors conduct highly interactive online classes that let them reach 100,000 students simultaneously and globally.
Courses: Udacity offers 11 online technology courses right now at http://www.udacity.com/courses
Cost: Taking the courses is free but you can optionally certify your skills online or in a Udacity testing center, for a fee.
The Value of Online Certification versus Traditional Degrees
- In IT Education: The Future is Free, Brian Bloom says, “For IT employers…e-learning gives a new meaning to what “credentials” mean. Earning a certificate from a free online course can’t be dismissed as substandard or “alternative” in any real sense when these courses are taught by some of the most celebrated academics in the world. Upon completion of these courses, there’s also a demonstrated level of self-motivation and familiarity with technology, which are obviously important in the IT field.”
- In Online University for the Masses, Margaret Wente writes, “A certificate of completion from Coursera or edX (available for a small fee) is not the same as a degree from MIT. But the online entrepreneurs are tackling that, too. They’re already figuring out ways to connect students with job opportunities that are appropriate for their skills. And they’re figuring out how to monitor and administer real exams (also for a small fee).”
- At Stafflink we find that our clients are most concerned with how job candidates have actually used technology skills in real-life projects and on-the-job experience. Certification is important, but references and a portfolio of work is more important. With job candidates coming with degrees from universities all over the world, it’s difficult to compare the relative value of those credentials. But the work a person does speaks for itself. So the real value of online technology training is that you can keep your skills up-to-date on you own schedule for free.
Your Thoughts on Online Tech Courses
Have you taken a technology course online? Do you find that employers value this training?
Please leave a comment to tell us about your experience with online education and getting a job. Do people still need to pay the big bucks to get a traditional degree?