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Georgia Tech joins push for free online courses | Education

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Georgia Tech joins push for free online courses

ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech is joining a revolution in higher education by offering online courses to anyone anywhere for free.

"It's hard to imagine a better way to affect more people, to influence their thinking on a subject," said Professor Tucker Balch, who's the first at Georgia Tech to videotape his lectures, then post them online. 

His course, Computational Investing, is the first of a series of courses that Tech plans to offer through an online company called Coursera.

More than 30 other top universities, including Stanford, Duke and Princeton, have already signed on.

"I'm normally used to teaching in front of 20 to 100 students," Prof. Balch said. "Now I look into a camera and pretend that they're there."

More than 46,000 students registered for his class, that's more than twice the entire student enrollment at Tech.

"They are high school students in rural Georgia. They are college students in India. They are rural teachers in Bangladesh," said Rich DeMillo, Director of Georgia Tech's Center for 21st Century Universities. "They are people that wouldn't normally have access to a Stanford course or a Georgia Tech course."

Every course is free with homework and tests that are graded by peers.

Students who pass the Tech course get a certificate of completion.

For Tech, it provides worldwide exposure.

"We think the primary first beneficiaries of this are going to be Georgia Tech students," DeMillo said. "We know for a fact it makes you a better classroom teacher."

Prof. Balch still spends most of his time in a real classroom, with students enrolled at Georgia Tech, but he sees real potential online.

Emory University has also joined Coursera.

It'll offer three free online courses, starting next year.

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