UCI Offers Free Online Courses

UCI partners with Coursera to offer higher education through free online courses to students worldwide despite their financial situation.


In the recent weeks leading up to the start of the fall quarter, UC Irvine, along with 16 other schools, announced its partnership with private company Coursera to offer courses free of charge to students worldwide.

Started by founders Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford  University, Coursera has broken the traditional mold of online learning in the hopes of sharing knowledge for free.

“Through the first courses, [we] saw the need for quality, accessible education experiences that can empower people to advance their skills, improve their lives and impact their communities,” they said.

Incorporating an expanding list of universities, Professors Koller and Ng hope to leverage their ideas to form a global learning community for education.

Online education has been growing in popularity as generations of students grow more and more accustomed to the use of computers. According to the company’s recent press release, Coursera has taken a different approach to online learning by establishing a platform that combines interactive video content, peer-to-peer forums and discussions, as well as assessments in order to allow students to learn at their own pace.

But Coursera has made their focus on bringing an education free of cost. After receiving $22 million in private funding, Coursera has been capable of operating freely without immediately pursuing revenue generation. In its future, the company is currently planning on utilizing monetization strategies like job placement programs to defer charges for courses from students, with the ultimate goal of removing any cost barrier.

“We do not expect to be able to replicate the university experience, nor is that our goal,” said Coursera’s recent press release. “We believe that education is not only earning credit, but also building skills and knowledge that can empower people to improve their careers, their lives and their communities.”

Due to accreditations and the wide range of and the level of available courses, Coursera remains unable to offer degrees through their online learning program. The company, however, has made significant progress in offering some incentives to students.

“Certificates of completion, which may be used to demonstrate proficiency in a subject to potential employers, are offered at the discretion of the university and the instructor. A small number of academic institutions are also accepting Coursera certificates in lieu of prerequisites or even for academic credit,” the press report said.

But aside from the incentives described by Coursera, the company seems to be sticking to their goal of spreading knowledge and creating a global learning environment outside of the university system, where all students can have access to a higher education in spite of their financial situation.

Through allowing students to potentially gain course credit at top universities, Coursera will not only facilitate students to have access to higher education free of cost, but also save money when they can afford to make the investment in their educations.

In association with the company, UCI will be offering a small number of its base core classes, like Bio 93, to the public.

“UCI’s agreement with Coursera advances our ability to fulfill our public and land-grant missions of providing inexpensive access to high quality university education,” said Gary W. Matkin, Dean of Continuing Education, Distance Learning and Summer Session. “UCI marks this agreement as yet another step in the rapid and inevitable advance of open and low cost higher education as the world moves toward universal higher education.”