Cheaper Than Harvard

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Lyons

An Ivy education online--for free

Think health-care costs are out of control? Try paying for a university degree. In the past 25 years, while health-care costs have risen 250 percent, higher-education costs have skyrocketed 450 percent, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. But Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng believe the Internet should allow millions of people to receive first-class educations at little or no cost. The two professors, who both teach computer science at Stanford, have launched Coursera, which will make courses from top-tier universities available online, at no charge, to anyone.

So far they've signed up volunteer professors from Stanford, Princeton, University of Michigan, and University of Pennsylvania. Coursera will offer 35 courses in subjects ranging from math and computer science to world history and contemporary American poetry. These aren't just videotaped lectures; they're full courses, with homework assignments, examinations, and grades.

"Today universities can offer a great education to a tiny sliver of the population. What we're hoping to do is provide the technology to enable a university like Princeton to offer an education not just to hundreds or thousands of students, but to millions," Koller says.

Coursera grew out of an experiment Ng and Koller carried out last fall, when each made a class available at no cost online. Ng's class in machine learning drew more than 100,000 enrolled students, 13,000 of whom completed the course. …