I’m quite excited to discover COURSERA, a social entrepreneurship company that partners with some top universities to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.

It was founded by computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Kollerfrom of Stanford University and as it was launched in April of 2012 it is still in its infancy. Most courses don’t begin until 2013.

Time will tell if they can continue to provide these courses solely through venture capital. Logic tells you that sooner or later students will have to pay something but for the moment it seems an opportunity not to pass up.

Each course includes short video lectures (viewed on You Tube) on different topics, reading tasks and assignments to be submitted, usually on a weekly basis.

To date 33 universities have partnered with the company to offer online courses that people can do in their free time. Currently there are almost two hundred courses to choose from in categories ranging from e-learning and digital cultures developed by a team from Edinburgh University to a beginner’s guide to irrational behaviour put together by economist Dan Ariely of USA’s Duke University.

They say you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth but I’ve looked for possible loopholes and so far I don’t see any.

There are no hidden charges – you sign up and if you do the tasks in the allotted time period you get a certificate for your CV or just for personal satisfaction.

It seems that in the world of academia at least, altruism is not dead.

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