Saturday, February 22, 2014

COURSERA: Take the World's Best Courses, Online, for Free

As Craig Watson wrote in his article,"'May I have your attention?' The consequences of anytime, anywhere technology," there is a movement in the United States to “modernize the nation’s education system” by tapping into today’s vast ‘anytime, anywhere’ technological reserves.[1] Coursera, I believe, is an example of this movement in action. As many of you may know, Coursera is a consortium of the world’s top universities that have come together to offer free online courses in a wide range of disciplines…to anyone.  Founded by two Stanford Professors of Computer Science, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, it is Coursera’s mission to provide education for everyone; or, as their mission statement puts it: “We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education. We aim to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.” Coursera does what many traditional university courses can’t, which is mind the gap between economic resources and accessibility; this is online literacy at its most fundamental, the educational system at its most revolutionary.

Every year RUSA, the Reference and User Services Association: a division of the American Library Association, creates a list of the best free reference sites on the Web. As suggested, this tool is meant for librarians, especially reference librarians, to offer patrons a higher level of assistance. Coursera, at, was named one of the best free reference websites of 2013. Heidi Jacobs reminds us that the American Library Association’s Core Values of Librarianship encourage librarians to engage in, among other things, education and lifelong learning. As we discuss online literacy this week, let us remember that as student librarians who engage with patrons on a daily or weekly basis we have access to the tools that can help anyone achieve their goal to an affordable, top-notch educational experience.
Check it out…you too may discover something that you didn’t even know you wanted to learn!

[1] S. Craig Watkins, "'May I have your attention?' The consequences of anytime, anywhere technology," in The Young and the Digital (Boston: Beacon Press, 2009), p. 182. accessed February 22, 2014,

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