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Top universities offer free courses on the Web

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PAROMITA PAIN: Some of the top universities in the U.S are offering free courses on the Web not just for individual students but also for other universities to adopt. Courses are taught through weekly new videos and quizzes

Earlier this year, MIT announced its engineering course that comes with a certificate on completion. Universities like Stanford are offering free online courses as well.

Stanford Engineering Everywhere ( has modules on Programming Methodology, Programming Abstractions, and Programming Paradigms, as a part of a three-course Introduction to Computer Science which is taken by most Stanford undergraduates and was developed to reach out to students globally.

Built under the Creative Commons licence that allows for free use and adaptation of the material, colleges too can use them to supplement classroom instructions.

Last year, a free online class on artificial intelligence (, conducted by Sebastian Thrun, Research Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, and Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google Inc, attracted over 58,000 students from around the world. The class ran from October 10 to December 18, 2011. Students who successfully completed the course were given a statement of accomplishment. From high school learners to retired people, the age groups were widely varied. Though the enrolment for this course is closed for now, the course material can be accessed at overview.

For those who want to learn how to build search engines and web application engineering, courses taught by Sebastian Thrun are available at There are teams of voluntary translators, the videos are available in languages other than English as well. Two classes, the CS101 Building a Search Engine and CS373 Programming a Robotic Car, will soon be offered on the site.

While the courses are taught through weekly new videos and quizzes, exams are personalised to prevent cheating.

Coursera ( is another interactive learning program that has subjects from various universities such as the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and University of Michigan. The website runs various modules along with subjects as varied as “introduction to sociology” to “the ways vaccines work,” with the mandatory computer sciences lessons between lessons.

Started by Andrew Ng and Daphne, two Stanford computer scientists, whose free internet courses attracted a wide audience, Coursera has an innovative student's platform where students from different parts of the world post answers to questions asked.

Some of the courses do not have set durations. So the students can pace the modules themselves, which helps in gaining in-depth knowledge about a subject or even find out what a particular topic might involve. For example, students interested in studying pharmacology would want to look at the module of “Fundamentals of Pharmacology” in Coursera from the University of Pennsylvania to understand what greater study of the field might entail.



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