Higher education is experiencing disruptive changes that are still very much in the early stages. Berkleemusic, the online division of Berklee College of Music, is joining in that disruption by offering a group of free music classes on Coursera, a company that also offers classes from such leading institutions as Columbia, Johns Hopkins and UC Berkeley. Though Berkleemusic's courses are introductory and do not beging till Spring of 2013, they will offer musicians a chance to check out something new and nonmusicians a chance to get started.
Coursera is an example of social entrepreneurship, a for-profit business designed to effect positive change in the world by leveraging the Internet. Initial course offerings tended to focus on math and science but liberal arts, fine arts and social science courses are also being added to the mix.
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Though it's not a for-credit system, some courses, such as this course in Social Network Analysis that I'll be starting next week, do offer a certificate of completion. However, most students are likely to be taking courses not for a certificate but for an introduction to new areas, such as the music courses being offered by Berkleemusic.
Berkleemusic itself is not the first distance education initiative of Berklee College of Music. As noted in the announcement of Berkleemusic's involvement with Coursera by Debbie Cavalier, Vice President of Online Learning and Continuing Education at Berklee:
Berklee College of Music has always been at the forefront of distance learning...In the 1970s, there was the Berklee Correspondence course with lessons and assignments sent between students and faculty via US Mail. In 2002 we launched Berkleemusic, the first fully online music education program. And now, Berklee is a music pioneer in the MOOC [Massive Open Online Courses] space with our Coursera partnership."
Berklee also has a history of free offerings including class session via their YouTube channel. However the YouTube courses include an overt recruiting aspect for Berkleemusic. The courses on Coursera should be a bit more formal and less obviously a marketing tool.
Berkleemusic will start with four classes on Coursera:
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