The coronavirus pandemic offers online education companies a chance to prove themselves.
- Coursera is allowing federal, state, and local agencies that serve the unemployed to enroll in the free program until September 30.
- Typically costing $399 per year, workers will be able to access free online classes by going through unemployment agencies that have enrolled. Subjects range from cloud computing and computer science, to business and art.
- As workers begin retraining and school districts turn to virtual learning, online education companies stand to gain.
The online education company Coursera is offering free courses to workers who are unemployed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Unemployed workers will have access to Coursera's full catalog of 3,800 online classes across 400 specializations, which range from digital marketing and data science, to deep-learning and self-driving cars. Enrollment normally costs $399 per year. To gain access, workers must go through a local, state or federal unemployment agency — each of which has until September 30 to enroll in the program. Agencies that do enroll will be able to provide workers with free access until the end of the year.
Coursera's Workforce Recovery Initiative is an extension of its Coursera for Government program, which helps government employees re-train and learn new professional skills. By completing classes, workers may be able to receive college credits or professional certifications.
"Coursera, along with its community of partners, is ready to serve the millions of workers who have lost their jobs and are going to have a hard time returning in a slow economy," Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda told Forbes. "We are honored to help U.S. states and countries around the world in their efforts to alleviate the impact on communities hardest hit by the pandemic."
The first U.S. states to offer the program will be Illinois, Arizona, and Oklahoma, while national governments like Colombia, Costa Rica, Greece, Malaysia, Panama, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan have also enrolled. Coursera anticipates that other U.S. states will enroll, and the company says it's looking into offering free access to private organizations "on a case-by-case basis."
Fiona Goodall / Stringer
Online education's big moment
It's no wonder Coursera and rival companies like Kaplan and Udacity have begun offering free online courses. For one, the unemployment rate in the U.S. last week topped 20 percent, meaning there's more than 33 million Americans without jobs. Many of these workers may need to retrain for new jobs, or could otherwise benefit by boosting their skills.
Beyond that, online learning companies are likely hoping that workers who enroll in the free program will continue using the platform when the offer expires in 2021. After all, the pandemic is likely to reshape many aspects of modern life, and it may accelerate a broad transition from in-classroom education to online learning.
The pandemic has already closed public schools across the U.S., forcing some 55 million American schoolchildren to attend class virtually, if at all. This shift has been fraught with technical, logistical, and psychological problems. But if online learning can be more successfully integrated into society, companies like Coursera could win big.
As Chip Paucek, chief executive of the educational technology company 2U Inc., told MarketWatch: "This is online education's moment" to prove itself in front of a big audience.
"The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think," Albert Einstein said. So go back to school, Ivy League style.
The idea of continuing to learn new things after leaving school is an attractive one, but one that can seem daunting. Finding both the time and the proper resources to learn something new can prove difficult, and leave us with unsatisfied curiosity. Even if we find a class we might be interested in, the cost can be prohibitive.
So, to help you curious cats out, we present 8 online classes from Yale you can take right now, at no cost.
Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics
Who hasn’t looked up at the night sky and wondered about the mysteries of the cosmos? This series of video and audio lectures covers the big questions of space, such as back holes, extra-solar planets, and dark energy, while discussing both what we know and what we wish we knew. Course notes are also available to help you review after school lets out.
Cervantes’ Don Quixote
It can be difficult to tackle a classic novel with little to no help. For those who want to read this classic of world literature but don’t quite know where to start, this series of video lectures help facilitate a close reading of one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. There are 24 one-hour lectures in this set, organized by chapter so you can find the area you need help understanding and start there. It's like being part of the world's brainiest book club.
Do you know why a good deal is a good deal? Why people act the way they do when confronted with a lose-lose situation? Game Theory is the study of how people react to problems of conflict and cooperation and it's used in business, politics, and even computer science. This course consists of 24 one-hour lectures, and you can also download the exams and solutions to test how well you understood the course. For a taster, here's Professor Barry Nalebuff from the Yale School of Management who came to the Big Think studio to discuss Game Theory:
Introduction to Ancient Greek History
The Glory that was Greece: we’ve all seen the statues, heard the big names, and benefit from their achievements, but do you know the story of how it all happened? This series of 24 lectures, some clocking in at over an hour, introduces the history of ancient Greece to us from the Dark Ages to the rise of Alexander. While the lectures might not leave you speaking Greek, it will leave you with a better understanding of why the world today is the way it is. There are also downloadable files that can help you remember the keywords, dates, and big events.
Moralities of Everyday Life
You have some idea of what kindness is, right? Can you explain it? How responsible are we for our moral stances? In this course, provided via Coursera, the moral psychology behind many of the concepts we use in our everyday thinking is examined and explained in readings and video lectures. The class materials can be viewed for free, or taken as a graded class for a fee. The recommended commitment is 2-3 hours per week. Bonus: this course is taught by Big Think favorite Professor Paul Bloom:
Journey of the Universe: The Unfolding of Life
Have you ever wanted to learn the story of life, the universe, and everything?* In this series of classes, available both to English and Chinese speakers, the story of the universe and the evolution of biological life is examined. In later lectures, new ways to understand our place in the ever-changing universe are examined. The classes consist of readings and video lectures, and for a fee you can also take quizzes to see how well you understand the material.
Introduction to Classical Music
You know all the names: Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach—but do you know why their classical music still endures? In this class, you can learn what elements classical music is comprised of, why the great symphonies are still played before crowds of millions, and even come to appreciate other genres of music a little more too. This nine-week course consists of lectures and readings that take 2-3 hours per week. This course can also be viewed for free, or taken as a graded class for a fee. (Really want to get those grades? Financial aid via Coursera is available for those who qualify.)
Fundamentals of Physics I & II
If you want to understand how the world really works, this comprehensive series of physics classes will put you in the know. This class requires a strong understanding of mathematics as an entry point, but is highly rewarding for those who can follow along, and basic calculus is reviewed in the first few videos. Problem sets and solutions are also available for those who want an extra challenge.
The above selection is just a small sampling of the courses offered by Yale, and the full list of classes can be found here and here. Many other excellent institutions have similar options. So, now that you know, you can view Ivy League-quality lectures online for free, whenever the mood strikes. Now there's just one question left: what are you waiting for?
* The answer is 42.