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Serving the UMN community since 1900

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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
Best photos of June '24
Published June 23, 2024

Universities offer free knowledge

Some schools are putting course materials online and available to the public.

Top universities in the United States are not known for their accessibility. Their high tuition costs and embrace of nepotistic admissions makes acceptance a dream for many. Now, some top schools are putting their syllabi, class notes, readings, and even, in some cases, video and audio of lectures online. These renowned schools, including Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Notre Dame and Berkeley, have not had a change of heart; they are not giving degrees away over the Internet. The new and growing trend represents a creative new marketing strategy that benefits the schools’ recruitment and fundraising potential while making knowledge widely available.

The universities have been quick to cite the way their programs are enhancing the common good, but it isn’t all community service. Schools are hoping that their online efforts will draw alumni contributions from all corners of the world. Additionally, incoming freshmen are using the sites to get a better feel for university classes. MIT surveyed online users and found that one-third of freshmen who were aware of the online class offerings said it made an impact on their choosing their college.

While the marketing aspect is certainly a plus, the bigger impact is in the broad range of people that can now enrich themselves intellectually. For those with specific interests and a little free time, it is now simple to take an introductory physics class online. While they are lacking interaction with a professor and no grades are given, the classes still have much to offer. People who never had a chance to attend college can receive supplemental education with Internet access.

The academic world has long been an advocate of free information and spreading knowledge. These online-class programs are an embodiment of that philosophy. We hope these programs gain momentum and popularity. Increasing the availability of education should be viewed as a positive, even if the schools are reaping other benefits.

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