This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
See Cramer's multi-million dollar portfolio for FREE and get his new book Get Rich Carefully! Learn More

The College Revolution: Think Free

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Here is good news for your children and grandchildren.

When the latter are ready for college, the former won't be pushed into the poor house by it.

That's because of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. These are real college courses, taught online, that take advantage of the Web's scalability and the video capability of modern tablets.

Unlike the Apollo Group's (APOL) University of Phoenix and other for-profit outfits, a MOOC is focused on courses, not degrees. A typical lecture-oriented class in an elite college might have 200 students. A MOOC could have tens of thousands.

Unlike an online college, MOOCs like Udacity -- or other such online universities such as Coursera, P2PU and University of the People -- offer popular courses taught at designated times from elite professors and institutions. They copy the best courses, not just the degree program.

Coursera offers courses from 33 leading universities, including my alma mater, Rice University. P2PU.org is aimed at individual teachers and lets anyone design their own course. University of the People proclaims itself "the world's first tuition free online university" and has put together an eclectic, international "President's Council."

A lot of the attention is on Udacity, co-founded by Stanford robotics professor Sebastian Thrun and two former Stanford graduate students, David Stavens and Michael Sokolsky.

They're focusing on popular courses most students can't get into that can be turned into profitable work. Like Thrun's own class in artificial intelligence, which he taught online through Stanford last year to a class that began with 160,000 students, of which 23,000 graduated.

It was that success that made him quit Stanford and found Udacity, with venture capital backing from Charles River Ventures. Thrun is also a Google (GOOG) fellow and one of Udacity's early courses was on progamming the Google App Engine, taught using the Google App Engine.

Clay Shirky, one of my go-to experts on the social aspects of Internet life, explained what makes Udacity unique in a recent blog post.

In the U.S., an undergraduate education used to be an option, one way to get into the middle class. Now it's a hostage situation, required to avoid falling out of it. And if some of the hostages having trouble coming up with the ransom conclude that our current system is a completely terrible idea, then learning will come unbundled from the pursuit of a degree just as as songs came unbundled from CDs.

Shirky compares Udacity to Napster, which first let people download individual songs rather than having to buy a whole album. It's best not to compare it with Apple's (AAPL) iTunes because, frankly, we can't be certain if this will be the MOOC that succeeds.

Stock quotes in this article: AAPL, APOL 

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
DOW 16,355.30 +92.74 0.57%
S&P 500 1,852.84 +9.86 0.54%
NASDAQ 4,063.1330 +28.9720 0.72%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto
Advertising Partners

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs