How is that for an attention grabbing blog topic? This is a space that has grown considerably over the past few years and coupled with the economic times being what they are, this blog topic should have broad appeal.

While a wide range of “educational content” can be found on the Internet, the most intriguing is the course content that has been made available by a large number of colleges. The content is FREELY available to anyone and the value proposition of “free” consists of:

What you can do:

  • It’s an effective way of increasing your knowledge on one or more subjects.
  • It can be useful in helping you advance in your career / field.
  • You can study the material at your own pace.
  • You can access the content in a variety of formats (more on that below).
  • It can be a fantastic compliment to classes you are already taking.
  • And while some of the courses may seem “dated” the underlying concepts still apply.

What you don’t get:

  • You do NOT get credit for the classes you “take”.
  • You don’t have access to the professors / instructors that taught the courses.
  • As in the absence of the course professors / instructors, you can’t get any questions answered.
  • You lose the dynamics of learning / interacting in a classroom setting.

Who came up with this idea anyway?

A pioneer in this space is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that started providing access to their course materials around 2002. The following Wikipedia entry provides a good background to what the school was looking to accomplish:

MIT OpenCourse Home Page

Since the introduction of the MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) site other colleges have followed suit, and it has evolved to the point where there is a formal organization called the OpenCourseWare Consortium that has over 200 World Wide members!

So where is this content – and how do I view it ?

The course content is available in a variety of locations AND formats. In fact you might be amazed at just how many places it is available. The next several sections highlight that flexibility.

University provided Web Sites:

For those universities participating in the OCW ecosystem, content will be provided somewhere on the universities web site. Some examples you can look through include:

While the amount of content provided can vary from school to school (and course to course) the content provide will consist of one or more of the following:

  • Syllabus / Calendar
  • Video Lectures
  • Podcasts
  • Selected Lecture Notes / Class Notes
  • Exams
  • Online Textbooks
  • Projects / Homework
  • Powerpoint presentations

Click here to see an example course page

But there are other locations than just the University sites!

There are other complimentary sources to the university provided content described above:

iTunes University

Working in conjunction with colleges, Apple has extend iTunes so that educational content (primarily podcasts and video) can be download to a personal computer and then transferred to an iPod. As of this writing, there are 600 universities with active “iTunes U” sites.

For those interested in the details of iTunes University, they can read the following Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITunes_Store#iTunes_U

NOTE: While the focus of this blog has been on free content, schools reserve the right to restrict content they provide on iTunes to current students

Examples:

To get the most out of the following examples you should first install Apple iTunes on your computer. The Apple iTunes application is FREE (isn’t that a nice word) and is available at:

http://www.apple.com/itunes/

YouTube Channels

And finally, some of this content is available on Youtube (which means you don’t need the iTunes software)

Examples:

Final Thoughts

With so much content available, there should be “something for everyone”. Some suggestions:

  • If you are a college student, check to see if your school participates in the iTunes University program
  • For those interested in “self study”, you may want to contact the college to determine the order of courses to take
  • The “portability” of this content also highlights another use for Tablet computers (discussed in a previous blog )

Take a “Tablet” and call me in the morning

I hope you enjoyed this entry – to “Keep Pace” with future entries