Free as in Freedom…not Free Beer

A recent Washington Post article surveyed the changing landscape of online learning by describing some “start-ups” that are offering free (or low cost) online courses. I’ve been aware of many of the examples described for some time, but it was the first time I’ve really seen the mainstream media give attention to the open courseware movement…and that might be a good thing.

Some folks might see the “free course” phenomena as a threat to traditional university courses, and something that confounds the notion of “academic credit.” I think it provides a healthy disruption that asks us to think about the future of education. No crystal ball here, but MIT’s online learning initiative (MITx) continues to be an important example of how this space is morphing.

Bottom line…it isn’t about “free” as in gratis, rather it is “free” in the spirit of libre…of setting knowledge free. Greater learner freedom is a good direction for education.

Now go drink to that…cheers!

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One thought on “Free as in Freedom…not Free Beer

  1. This is an excellent point. The plethora of on-line content gives the inquisitive mind an endless playground with no requirements or expectations other than those which are self-imposed. The problem arises when one attempts the leap to academic certification. Without the interaction required to assess competency, I believe any certification would be meaningless (or worse, instill the illusion of competency where none exists). The requirement of unbiased assessment by a qualified authority is likely to forever condemn on-line content such as MITx to self-fulfillment.
    Cheers.

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