EdX

From edX’s website

edX is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that features learning designed specifically for interactive study via the web. Based on a long history of collaboration and their shared educational missions, the founders are creating a new online-learning experience with online courses that reflect their disciplinary breadth.

Along with offering online courses, the institutions will use edX to research how students learn and how technology can transform learning–both on-campus and worldwide. Anant Agarwal, former Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, serves as the first president of edX. edX’s goals combine the desire to reach out to students of all ages, means, and nations, and to deliver these teachings from a faculty who reflect the diversity of its audience. EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is governed by MIT and Harvard.

Summary

Courses are started throughout the year.  All edX courses are free. The lectures, homework, simulations, and textbook are all available online.  Each course overview reviews the content and methods; time required; prerequisites (if any); faculty profiles, etc. Below is the description of the  course titled The Ancient Greek Hero scheduled for Spring 2013.  It does not have prerequisites.

“The Ancient Greek Hero” will use the latest technology to help students engage with poetry, songs, and stories first composed more than two millennia ago; this literature includes the “Homeric Iliad and Odyssey,” a selection of lyric poetry (including the songs of Sappho), excerpts of prose history, seven tragedies, two Platonic dialogues, and the intriguing but rarely studied dialogue, “On Heroes” by Philostratus. Through English translations that have been carefully prepared and arranged for this course, as well as through supplementary comparative material drawn from cultures other than the Greek, and featuring a wide variety of media such as vase painting, European opera, and cinema—from Ingmar Bergman’s version of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” to Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic, Blade Runner—the course provides students who have no previous background in classical Greek civilization with a fully engaging and immediately accessible introduction to the most beautiful moments in this ancient literature, its myths, and ritual practices.

Coursera

From its website

We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.

Through this, 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.

Summary

Coursera asserts that it is constantly expanding the range of classes and college partners around the world.  Top universities in Europe, Asia, and Latin America are aligned with Coursera making it possible for learners to study in French, German, Spanish, Chinese, and Italian.  Additionally, it is innovating new methods with its partner colleges for people to learn and earn college credits or documentation for courses completed in good standing.  For example,  Coursera is working with ACE Credit, a company that certifies nontraditional education for college credit.  As of March 2013, Coursera offers five classes in conjunction with the University of California, Duke, and University of Pennsylvania that ACE Credit will deem acceptable for college credit  that could then be applied by degree seeking students at one of 2,000 participating colleges and universities.

Another way of documenting one’s progress and learning is by enrolling in classes via the Signature Track.  This track has special requirements to ensure that your work is being completed by you leading to a verified credit of completion that you could make available electronically to prospective or current employers or anyone that you need to inform of your competence as long as they have a secure URL.  The Signature Track does involve a fee but gives you access to education–knowledge and skill building–regardless of geography or time.

Codecademy

From its website

Codecademy is a team of hackers working hard to build a better way for anyone to teach, and learn, how to code. We’re determined to succeed in realizing our mission to turn a world of tech consumers into one of empowered builders.

Summary

The site offers modules or tracks to help people learn Javascript, Web Fundamentals, Python, Ruby, jQuery, Projects, and APIs. The website also mirrors the spirit behind the Women’s Learning Studio in three key ways.  It offers the opportunity for learners to build projects such as interactive websites, games, and applications TOGETHER.  Learning occurs in a fun, safe community setting for learners at all levels of accomplishment to stay MOTIVATED.  Learning progress is encouraged with points and badges that can lead to RECOGNITION onsite that may be used by the learner to rebrand himself/herself for potential employers, clients, and admission officers in other venues.

Coding skill  is becoming increasingly important as people yearn for or need their own domains online and must have the DIY skills to make the spaces affordable and sustainable.  Or to explain to a contractor more of what the design should be for a website, application, or game. For instance, knowing basic coding commands was an issue for Studio founders in setting up and maintaining this website.  Maybe one doesn’t need the skill  level of a Mark Zuckerman or Bill Gates as discussed in this blog post and video but having some HTML fundamentals can help make someone more self-reliant and better able to understand the language and craft behind websites and applications.  Additionally, knowing how to code “comes at a time tech executives warn of a new digital divide emerging between job-seekers who possess programming skills and those who do not.”  In short, Codecademy models the spirit of online learning to build your personal or professional portfolio.

Stanford Online/Stanford University

Summary

Stanford Online has many well-respected courses, lecture videos, and other short-term learning opportunities available to the public FREE.  Its online partners in learning are Coursera and Class2Go.  This website presents a wide range of options such as Stanford iTunes, Stanford on YouTube, Stanford Center for Professional Development, and Stanford eCorner.  The Entrepreneurship Corner contains more than 2,000 FREE videos and podcasts featuring entrepreneurship and innovation thought leaders.

Their description of one course on databases below offers history and context for the course.

“Introduction to Databases” had a very successful public offering in fall 2011, as one of Stanford’s inaugural three massive open online courses. Since then, the course materials have been improved and expanded, and we’re excited to be launching a second public offering of the course in winter 2013. The course includes video lectures and demos with in-video quizzes to check understanding, in-depth standalone quizzes, a wide variety of automatically-checked interactive programming exercises, midterm and final exams, a discussion forum, optional additional exercises with solutions, and pointers to readings and resources. Taught by Professor Jennifer Widom, the curriculum draws from Stanford’s popular Introduction to Databases course.

Academic Earth

From its Website

A world-class education at your fingertips.

Academic Earth aims to provide everyone with the opportunity to earn a world-class education by offering free online classes and online learning tools. Whether you’re looking to advance your career or take classes that interest you, Academic Earth can connect you to the world’s top universities and scholars.

Summary

This is a repository of FREE university courses and lectures that have been made available online.  (Did we say free yet?)  If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to sit in on a lecture at a prestigious university, this site offers a window into classrooms at UC Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Yale, and more.  The university level content is wide ranging such as business, mathematics, engineering, science, humanities, social sciences, art and design, and test preparation for ACT, SAT, GRE, and LSAT, etc.

The top ranked courses include an introduction to Computer Science and Programming, Introduction to Ancient Greek History and Physics II:  Electricity and Magnetism.  Academic Earth also offers “playlists” that take you to short-term lecture series on You Are What You Eat (3 lectures), The Nature of Evil (6 lectures), Love is in the Air (6  lectures) and Living a Good Life (3 lectures).