The rise in popularity of online learning, especially the ones classified as massive open online courses (MOOCS), strongly suggests that we have arrived at a crucial turning point in the world of education. Now whether we call this phenomenon as potential game changer or a disruptive innovation, online learning will surely redefine and reshape education as we know it.

Canadian institutions of higher learning will be well served if serious steps are taken to be part of this seismic shift and therefore move towards finding a way to pool resources together and create a consortium whose main charge is to offer online courses. These courses will have to feature high caliber Canadian university professors teaching to an audience of millions around the world.

For example, Coursera, a company founded by two Stanford University computer scientists, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, has managed within a year to draw millions of learners worldwide to its site who are taking free courses offered by professors from prestigious universities such as Stanford, Princeton, Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania. As of this writing, more famous schools have decided to join in: the University of Toronto, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Edinburgh in Scotland, California Institute of Technology, among others, exponentially boosting the power and promise of online learning.

Being curious about how open online courses work, I decided to take a course on Coursera.org called Introduction to Sociology being taught by Princeton University Sociology Professor Mitchell Duneier. I have been accessing the content for the past few weeks at my own pace, time and volition and I must say that what I have experienced so far has been very revealing and quite transformative. I am very impressed by the quality of the lecture videos and the low stakes question at the end of each 7-15 minute segment designed to ensure understanding of the concepts presented. Most of all, I am very impressed by the quality and accessibility of the course readings.

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