Distance education or distance learning is a field of education that focuses on teaching methods and technology with the aim of delivering teaching, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional educational setting such as a classroom. Distance learning field is advancing by leaps and bounds day by day due to arrival of internet and software technologies.
In the past and to a certain extent in present it relied mainly on postal services, TV and radio, as in the case of The Open University UK, Allama Iqbal Open University Pakistan and Indira Gandhi National Open University India. In these traditional settings books, assignments and other materials are sent to students by correspondence as a hard copy, final examinations in an examinational hall are required to get certification. It allowed full time working professionals to enhance their educational levels. These new educational settings enabled educational access to a sheer number of students around globe.
Recently there is huge jump in number of distance education learners with access to quality education through Internet based connectivity. So I would be doing a small review of leading web based learning opportunities in this article which rose in past 10 years.
Ten Best online Resources:
1. Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org)
Salman Khan a Bengali American started this non-profit educational website in 2006 which hosts 3400 video lectures in diverse fields and languages. These videos are school level mainly in Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Finance. The project is funded by donations with significant backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google and advertising on its website (until 2010). Its YouTube channel has more than 190 million total views. Khan chose to avoid the standard format of a person standing by a whiteboard; instead interactive black board is used without teacher in sight. Khan Academy also provides a web-based exercise system that generates problems for students based on skill level and performance. The material is hosted on YouTube and can be assessed form the khan academy website too. The course is actively been translated in different languages with the help of volunteers and video resource in each language is growing rapidly.
2. Coursera (www.coursera.org)
Coursera is an education technology company founded by computer science professors from Stanford University, USA in April 2012. It is running on donations and provides free courses for users. Coursera and 33 participating Universities each meet their own expenses. The website provides free online courses in the fields of Computer Science; Healthcare, Medicine, and Biology; Society, Networks, and Information; Humanities and Social Science; Mathematics and Statistics; and Economic, Finance, and Business. Each course includes short video lectures on different topics and assignments to be submitted. Some courses provide certification on completion while others do not. The participating universities are best in the world including Stanford University. Users can interact with other students and can discuss assignment questions in forums on the website. The material is hosted on Coursera website and currently there are 193 up to date university level courses on offer.
3. edX (www.edx.org)
edX is a joint venture initiated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University that offer university-level courses from a wide range of disciplines online to a worldwide audience at no charge and started in fall 2012. Berkeley University also started participation recently in this venture. The two institutions have each contributed $30 million to the nonprofit project. There are plans to allow other schools to offer courses on the edX website. For a modest fee certificates of successful completion will be offered but not college credit. Neither MIT nor Harvard students may take the online courses for credit; they will be used to enrich learning experience of students before starting the degree. The first course Circuits and Electronics, was initially offered by MITx in March 2012. The entire courses are university level and in the field of computers mostly.
4. Open Yale Courses (oyc.yale.edu)
Open Yale Courses is a project of Yale University to share full video and course materials from its undergraduate courses launched in December 2007. Open Yale Courses provides free access to a selection of introductory courses. The initiative was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. All lectures were recorded in the Yale College classroom and are available in video, audio, and text transcript formats. These are hosted in Open Yale course website and on YouTube. No course credit, degree, or certificate is given. The courses are available in History, Literature and many fields of Science.
5. Academic Earth (www.academicearth.org)
Academic Earth is a website launched March 24, 2009, by Richard Ludlow and others and offer free online video lectures from universities such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Michigan, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale in the subjects of Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, English, Entrepreneurship, History, Law, Mathematics, Medicine etc. Most of these courses are university level.
Ludlow found out that there are various academic resources online although these resources were scattered across different websites and in varying file formats. Academic Earth serves as an easily-accessible repository for online academic lectures. The videos are hosted on its website and can be accessed free of cost.
6. Udacity (www.udacity.com)
Udacity is a private educational organization founded by Sebastian Thrun, David Stavens, and Mike Sokolsky in 2012. It is the outgrowth of free computer science classes offered in 2011 through Stanford University. As of 1 October 2012, Udacity has 14 active free courses. Most of the courses are offered in computer and software engineering, while some are in statistics and basic sciences too. The videos are hosted in its own website. It promotes learn by doing model and claim that its methods are more user friendly, engaging and challenging.
Upon completing a course, students receive a certificate of completion indicating their level of achievement, signed by the instructors, at no cost.
7. OpenCourseWare (ocw.mit.edu)
The OpenCourseWare took off with the launch of at MIT open courseware in October 2002. MIT believes that it would allow students to become better prepared for classes so that they may be more engaged during a class.
OCW project is a free and open digital publication of high quality educational materials, organized as courses and is available for use and adaptation under an open license, such as a Creative Commons license and does not typically provide certification. There are currently several hundred courses on its website for free.
8. CK-12 (www.ck12.org)
CK-12 is a non-profit organization based in California founded with the mission to produce free and open source K-12 materials aligned to state curriculum standards and customized to meet student and teacher needs. Established in 2007 by Neeru Khosla and Murugan Pal to support K-12 science, technology, engineering, and math education, CK-12 generates and distributes educational content via web-based open content material called the FlexBook
Course materials are school level and engaging for students.
9. Open culture (www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses)
This website contains links of 534 courses from different universities and in diverse areas. All these course are free and this website serves as a repository and easy access platform. The course videos are hosted on YouTube, course institution website or sometimes on iTunes.
Opportunities for developing countries:
This is a unique time when a shift is going on the way we learn. A cheap computer/laptop and an internet connection can enable user to the world’s authentic study resources. A large number of volunteer efforts are underway to translate online materials into the world’s most spoken languages to increase the accessibility. For example, there is a large young population in Pakistan (around 60%) and state and private schooling is not being able to cater all the people. In addition to that teachers lack resources to enhance their understanding and delivery; this gap can be filled with free material and centralised services with global perspective. So this is a huge opportunity for Students, translators and teachers to take advantage and even to businesses. Many business models can evolve for the contributor and user of material to make profit. This would eventually lead to knowledge based economy. The open source video recording softwares like camtasia studio and camstudio can be used for making video. Also discussed in another blog .
Training tutorials for training employees can save cost and resources (travel, buildings space etc).
More reading is here