NCRL News and Events

Rural Libraries Offer Gateway to Higher Education

NCRL Webmaster - Saturday, May 25, 2013

News Release
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Contact: Dan Howard
   (509) 663-1117 extension 122

Rural Libraries Offer Gateway to Higher Education

If you live in Brewster, but want to take a class from Harvard University, you don’t need to move to Massachusetts. Just visit the North Central Regional Library’s website at to find hundreds of free courses available from universities across the United States. Don’t have a computer? No problem! You can use the library’s computers free of charge.

Not long ago, educational opportunities for people living in rural areas were limited to art school correspondence courses advertised on matchbook covers. Higher education was not easily available to people living in communities lacking colleges, universities, trade, and technical schools. The internet has changed all of that, bringing high quality education from the city to the country and everywhere in between.

This is the dawning of the age of the MOOC - Massive Open Online Courses. Unlike traditional online courses, MOOCs are usually free, don’t provide credit, and enroll  thousands of students from all over the world. Three big MOOC websites dominate: Coursera, UDACITY, and edX. Another online learning site, the Khan Academy, has received a lot of attention in the press, including a segment on the CBS news program “60 Minutes.”

Coursera has many partners, including the University of Washington, Princeton, and Duke, and offers 350 courses to 3.4 million students in subjects such as computer science, business, humanities, and engineering. UDACITY offers courses on computer science and engineering and recently announced a partnership with San Jose State University to offer college credit for some courses. For just $150 each, you can get transferable credit for four classes: College Algebra, Introduction to Psychology, Elementary Statistics, and Introduction to Programming. edX is run out of Harvard and M.I.T., providing courses in disciplines such as chemistry, computer science, and public health. The Khan Academy is a nonprofit with a goal of bringing free world-class education to anyone anywhere. It features over 3,000 You Tube videos used to tutor students in math, science, and other subjects.

The North Central Regional Library’s website,, is the perfect gateway to free online education sources. Click on the “Research and Homework” tab and you’ll find more than a dozen links to sources of free online education, from Harvard Open Courses to the Wenatchee Internet Academy. Library cardholders can get free online tutoring from “HelpNow!” and free language instruction from “Mango Languages.”

North Central Regional Library Executive Director Dan Howard is an enthusiastic MOOC student. “I love the writing class I’m taking from Coursera. My professor from Ohio State University is a great teacher. He’s upbeat and very encouraging. I’ve talked with other students from as far away as Sri Lanka and as close as British Columbia. This has been an amazing experience and I’ve learned a lot.” No more excuses. With MOOCs, you don’t have to leave Pateros to get the Ivy League education you have always deserved.

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