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Top Universities Offer Courses For Free

Crazy about learning but not about the costs of higher education? Some of the world’s top universities offer their courses online—for free.

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FREE IS GOOD | If the best things in life are free, what’s the deal with university tuition? In B.C. the average tuition fee has increased 96 percent in the past five years.

As it happens, you can get a university education without paying a cent, and what’s more, from top-flight institutions like MIT, Stanford and Cambridge. As long as you’re more interested in learning than in obtaining a formal degree, many universities provide courses and lectures online for free.

Piloted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2002, open CourseWare is now a global phenomenon with about 250 participating institutions and associations worldwide. Courses are available in a wide range of disciplines from architecture to engineering to languages to mathematics. While course materials vary, most include access to readings, lecture notes, assignments and exams.

5 Free Paths To Higher Learning

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) From its humble beginnings of 50 free courses, MIT now has more than 2,000 available in nearly every discipline. www.ocwconsortium.org

2. Open University in the U.K., one of the world’s largest universities, provides free access to its course materials, supported by free study units and discussion forums, through its OpenLearn section. openlearn.open.ac.uk

3. Capilano University was the first Canadian institution to come on board with the OCW Consortium in 2008. Spearheaded by business instructor John Wilson, Capilano’s OpenCourseWare site offers over 20 courses ranging from anthropology to media arts to business to chemistry. ocw.capilanou.ca

4. iTunes U is another fabulous resource for free course content, offering more than 350,000 free lectures, videos, films and even entire books from all over the world. More than 800 universities have active iTunes U sites. About half these institutions—including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford and UC Berkeley—distribute their content publicly on the iTunes Store. Supporting both the PDF and ePub file formats, iTunes U provides documents that will open not just on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch but any compatible e-reader. www.apple.com

5. Other non-traditional institutions are getting hip to the knowledge-sharing culture. One such resource is The Khan Academy, which offers over 1,600 undergraduate-level videos on maths, sciences and humanities. www.khanacademy.org. —Belinda Bruce

For more, visit the OpenCourseWare Consortium: www.ocwconsortium.org; or DIY Learning.

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