Harvard offering free online courses: Here’s the catch

Harvard University is famous for being among the most difficult colleges to get into. Recently, the Ivy League university began offering free online courses. Many jumped at the opportunity thinking they would earn a free degree from the prestigious institution. However, there are a few things you should be aware of.

The Harvard online catalog currently offers 69 (nice) free courses, found here. The biggest difference is that the classes are initially only available for audit. Meaning you are able to receive all the course materials, lectures and knowledge. Notably, you will not receive credit or certify the same way you would as an enrolled student. You will most likely not receive proof of completing the course. Unless, you pay for the downloadable certificate. Furthermore, the prices vary depending on the curriculum, and may require additional coursework to obtain certification.

For example, the course Shakespeare’s Othello: The Moor is an option for you to take online. The class begins April 27th, 2020. Here are the details:

  • 23,773 people are already enrolled
  • Length is 4 weeks
  • Price: Free (Add a Verified Certificate for $49 USD)

Their website says:

“Pursue a Verified Certificate to highlight the knowledge and skills you gain.” Additionally, the site states, “Receive an instructor-signed certificate with the institution’s logo to verify your achievement and increase your job prospects” It may appear as if the college is implying having “Harvard University” on a certificate will increase your marketability within that field of expertise.

This is a very niche class, so let’s look at something more contemporary.

Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies also begins April 27th, 2020. Here are the details:

  • 396,275 people are already enrolled
  • Length is 6 weeks
  • Price: Free (Add a Verified Certificate for $125 USD)

Similarly, the same posting occurs referring to this course as a way to improve job prospects.

These classes offer the equivalent of distance education, known to military as JKO, MarineNet, MCI etc. Additionally, they show initiative and dedication to a specific field, rather than counting towards a degree program.

In conclusion, it is recommended to read all terms and conditions before committing to any courses. This will ensure you are getting out of the class, what you want and expect.  Which course would you take? Drop a comment!

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