02 – The WAOE Free Online Liberal Arts Education Project

The WAOE Free Online Liberal Arts Education Project

John Spiers, MA


What is your specialty? You can help WAOE help people worldwide get access to an education by recommending a class from the rapidly expanding universe of free online courses from major universities.

WAOE proposes to host a website with a curated selection of courses from Stanford, UC Berkeley, Harvard, UCLA, MIT and other top schools.  The courses we select will constitute, if pursued, a college level liberal arts education.

What problem are we solving?  By curating a selection of courses that would constitute a college level liberal arts education, we at once focus and direct students from around the world who are faced with so many course options it is like trying to sip water from a fire hose.  Like a good librarian, we’ll save people time getting to what is good.

All schools and courses are provided on an open sourced basis.  We are merely selecting the courses we deem best.  These courses are open to all students worldwide, with no requirements.  On the other hand, we will be clear that taking these courses leads to no certificate or recognition of any sort.  One will merely be educated—no small thing. And a good basis for a lifelong learner.

Our model is roughly the St. John’s model, of reading and Socratic dialogue, with no major or minor, strictly a liberal arts degree.  Please prefer courses with heavy reading of original work.  Make sure the course is web-based, and requires no membership such as iTunes or other limiting factor.  Almost all courses offered have no-cost tutorial sessions of one kind or another, as a part of the course.  Look for that as an element in your selection. And finally, we want courses that would equate to 5 credits in a quarter system, that is essentially an hour a day for ten weeks of lecture.  (We will also admonish students to advance in some physical education of some sort concomitantly.)

We understand that by picking the top USA colleges, there will be a cultural bias of which we may naturally be suspicious.  The main thing is to get these courses up, and let the effort be an inspiration to others to do likewise, and produce their own version elsewhere. Our hope is that other, international, schools will begin to appear on the lists that we create as people step up to be course curators and begin reviewing courses.

Here are some curriculum areas (suggestions) in which you might be interested in curating (reviewing):

  • Arts (Theatre Arts, Visual Arts, Music, Dance, Architecture)
  • Comparative Religion
  • History
  • Home Economics
  • Humanities
  • Latin
  • Mathematics
  • Philosophy
  • Sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Biology, etc.)
  • Social Sciences (Anthropology, Archeology, Social Work, etc.)

What I will do as people commit to curating is to share and update a spreadsheet with the names of the curator for the topic.  Then I will gently push you to have me a recommendation by early next year.  One course per scholar is probably enough. When we pull these together, your review will be associated with the course.

Below are websites to some of the top schools, but we are not limited to these.  Feel free to pull courses in from elsewhere.  Be careful of MITx, which is a consortium and indicated by he x, as in Havardx, Berkeleyx, etc.  That is a new initiative which will have certificates associated, and an alternative to what we are advancing. Standford seems to have courses up only during a given quarter, where afterwards they are withdrawn.  If you find otherwise, please let me know.

  • http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/ocw-scholar/
  • http://webcast.berkeley.edu/
  • http://oyc.yale.edu/
  • http://oli.cmu.edu/learn-with-oli/see-our-free-open-courses/

Please contact me with a topic to which you will commit.

If you have any questions, please let me know.  And by all means, please pass this around as far and wide as possible.

John Spiers

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