Yesterday, Yale announced that it is providing "free and open access to seven introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University." I've listed the course lineup below, with links to each course. You can access the homepage for the project here.
With this launch, Yale becomes the latest prestigious American university to give global users access to online educational content. But its approach is rather different. The high profile initiatives led by MIT and UC Berkeley both deliver high volumes of content, and they're designed to be scalable. (MIT gives users access to mass quantities of course materials created by its faculty, while Berkeley distributes through iTunes and YouTube over 50 courses that the university records at a reasonable cost.) In contrast, Yale's project is more boutique and high-touch.
Each course features a syllabus, reading assignments, class notes, and polished lectures, which, when taken together, contribute to a more rounded learning experience. The lectures can be downloaded in one of five formats (text, audio, flash video, low bandwidth quicktime video, and high bandwidth quicktime video). And quite notably, Yale has designed the courses to be downloaded fairly easily, which means that you can put the lectures onto an mp3 player if you're a little tech savvy. This does raise the question, however: why aren't the lectures also posted on Yale's iTunes site? This would surely facilitate the downloading of lectures for many users, and it would offer an easy way to drive substantial traffic to the courses.
As some have already noted (see the comments on this page), Yale isn't offering online courses in the truest sense, meaning you won't get access to a live instructor here. Nor will you be able to interact with other students. It's a one-way, solitary educational experience. But there's a reason for that. Not long ago, Yale experimented with a more comprehensive form of online learning when it created, along with Stanford and Oxford, an e-learning consortium called "The Alliance for Lifelong Learning" (a/k/a AllLearn). For many reasons, the venture (where I spent five years) wasn't ultimatley viable. And so Yale has opted for another model that has its own virtues -- it's less capital intensive; it's free (AllLearn charged for its courses); and it will get educational materials into far more people's hands, which is perhaps what matters most.
As a quick note, let me add that this project was funded by the Hewlett Foundation, and Yale expects to add up to 30 additional courses over the next several years.
To visit Yale's open courses, visit the following links:
- Astronomy 160: Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics
- English 310: Modern Poetry
- Philosophy 176: Death
- Physics 200: Fundamentals of Physics
- Political Science 114: Introduction to Political Philosophy
- Psychology 110: Introduction to Psychology
- Religious Studies 145: Introduction to the Old Testament