Awesome Free Ed Tech Resources eBook!

  • Nearly 200 Free Applications and hundreds of resources to help you get the most out of them!
  • Tools for interactive collaboration, gamification, OER, mobile learning, & so much more!
  • YOURS FREE just for signing up for blog posts!

Sign Up Now


Online Schooling and The Democratization of Education

by Kelly Walsh on December 26, 2011


What better topic for a day-after-Christmas post than the gift of free education? Thanks to Elaine Hirsch for this article about exciting recent developments in online education.

MIT and Stanford’s online schooling initiatives represent a dramatic change in the model of higher education. Since these programs are known for offering the best undergraduate and graduate programs around the world, they are hoping to leverage their name to help expand cutting-edge teaching methods to the internet audience. By making these courses available via online schooling, they can serve a worldwide student base. Furthermore, these free courses will vastly expand the reach of higher education to socioeconomic groups who previously were unable to take advantage of a higher education.

Open Learning and Education

The open learning initiative recently announced by MIT and similar initiatives announced by Stanford represent a radical expansion of the concepts of distance education.. MIT’s learning initiative, known as MITx, sets up a tool kit composed of online services, allowing students and instructors alike to interact online, including grading, evaluation of student progress and interactive meetings with the instructors. Most importantly, this platform is free and open source, making it available to other schools and students alike.

The most important aspect of this system of online education is that it permits a vast number of students who otherwise could not afford to attend a high quality university such as MIT to take classes online for free. In fact, MIT expects that within ten years MITx will enable the university to reach over one billion online students, again at no direct cost to the participating students. Furthermore, by successfully completing these courses will result in the students receiving official recognition of their progress from the University in the form of a certificate.

Stanford’s open learning initiative has seen similar success. Offerings from Stanford’s school of engineering have attracted hundreds of thousands of students from all over the world. Furthermore, by linking social media to the courses, the students can assist each other in exploring and understanding the coursework. This is a vital consideration given the large number of online participants.

The Democratization of Education

Higher education, even education that has traditionally been heavily subsidized, such as the University of California system, has been unable to provide services to all the students desiring to attend. Some attribute this to an imbalance in supply and demand, while others point to a failure in the higher education system. Regardless, this has forced many individuals to forgo obtaining the higher education they desire, whether due to finances or simply being unable to attend the school. The new initiatives from Stanford and MIT promise to radically transform this equation.

By making online courses available at no cost to the student, and more importantly by allowing official acknowledgment of the successful completion of the coursework, the availability of a university level education has been radically expanded. The participation in both MIT and Stanford’s programs has far outstripped the number of students attending via more traditional methods, and this demonstrates the demand for accessible and online university courses.

Via their online educational programs, the two universities are contributing to the democratization of education. These new teaching methods have the potential to transform education, making the long desired goal of allowing anyone, regardless of nationality or socioeconomic status, to obtain a high quality education a reality.

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
The Changing Dynamic of Online Education
Succeeding With Reverse Instruction – One Instructor’s Inspired Approach
Getting The Most Out Of Student Blogging Assignments And Instructional Blogging


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

Print This Post Print This Post

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John at TestSoup January 3, 2012 at 12:26 pm

This is really cool.

It really seems like this might be the future of higher education.

At this point, there are two things you pay for when writing tuition checks: the diploma and the opportunity to be around lots of bring, motivated people. The education is pretty much free — because we all know that we could get it anyway.

But we pay for the certification that we know will be universally recognized and the chance to meet lots of people like us (and unlike us).

If colleges can make the case that this is actually what you are paying for and devote resources to giving away the learning for free, then perhaps the clientele would change. Fewer people would go to college “officially,” but more could then benefit from all the free info.

I think it really could solve the problem that so many OWS protesters are complaining about.

mercadeo internet December 27, 2011 at 7:57 am

One of the most substantial uses in education is the use of technology. Also technology is an increasingly influential factor in education. Computers and mobile phones are used in developed countries both to complement established education practices and develop new ways of learning such as online education (a type of distance education ). This gives students the opportunity to choose what they are interested in learning. The proliferation of computers also means the increase of programming and blogging. Technology offers powerful learning tools that demand new skills and understandings of students, including Multimedia , and provides new ways to engage students, such as Virtual learning environments . One such tool are virtual manipulatives , which are an “interactive, Web-based visual representation of a dynamic object that presents opportunities for constructing mathematical knowledge” (Moyer, Bolyard, & Spikell, 2002). In short, virtual manipulatives are dynamic visual/pictorial replicas of physical mathematical manipulatives, which have long been used to demonstrate and teach various mathematical concepts. Virtual manipulatives can be easily accessed on the Internet as stand-alone applets, allowing for easy access and use in a variety of educational settings. Emerging research into the effectiveness of virtual manipulatives as a teaching tool have yielded promising results, suggesting comparable, and in many cases superior overall concept-teaching effectiveness compared to standard teaching methods.

Leave a Comment

{ 6 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: