Academic Earth: Free Education for All

Over a year ago, I wrote about free MOOCs for educators and mentioned Coursera and edX as good sites to find valuable courses for professional development. The importance of professional development can never be underestimated, so today, I want to add Academic Earth to that list and encourage you to get online and learn new things about the field.

According to their homepage, those at Academic Earth believe that “that everyone deserves access to a world-class education,” which is an idea we, as educators, can all support. Academic Earth is striving toward this goal by directing people toward open courseware at various universities around the world. For education, there are 19 courses on a wide range of topics from various universities including MIT, UC Berkley, and Johns Hopkins. There is really something for everyone with many of the courses focusing on different aspects of technology in education and others on more traditional topics.

Immediately, I noticed a number of important differences between the Coursera classes I have taken and the courses I looked at through Academic Earth. Coursera offers courses directly on its page on a specific schedule, and the courses include many opportunities to interact with facilitators and other participants. Academic Earth, on the other hand, posts and sorts courses, but sends you directly to the university offering the course to complete it. The classes I have seen do not have dates and are constantly available for participants to work through and for new participants to join, and  it appears that participants have little to no interaction with others. While these are pretty significant differences, both sites offer high quality courses, so you can try one of each. Depending on your learning style and pace, you might prefer one over the other or find that each has its own advantages.

It may be hard to find the time to pursue a class of your own, but I encourage you to look at the course offerings on Academic Earth and find one that appeals to you. If you have had limited success on other platforms, you might find that this one works better for you. Good luck!

Also, if you have taken a course from Coursera or Academic Earth, what did you think of the experience? We would love to hear about it in the comments section.

About Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen recently completed her Master’s degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California. She currently teaches in the Intensive English Program at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She has taught ESOL in China, Japan, and Cambodia as well as online. Her primary interests are communicative teaching methods and the use of technology in education.

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