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A world-class education for free

BY DAN LIPS Published: April 30, 2011

For example, in 2007, MIT launched its “OpenCourseWare” initiative providing free online access to videos of lectures, course notes and other instructional materials. After just four years, the project is having a global impact. The site features more than 2,000 courses, at least 700 of which are translated into other languages. More than 100 million Web visitors had watched MITs free lectures as of 2010. Many other universities are now following MIT's example.

Of course, free education resources like Khan Academy and MIT's aren't displacing traditional schooling yet. But it's easy to imagine how the growing availability of free world-class educational resources will revolutionize American education. For example, given the increased popularity of credit-by-examination programs like Advanced Placement or College-Level Examination Program tests, motivated self-learners now have an opportunity to use online instruction to complete their education at their own pace.

For decades, policymakers have struggled and spent untold billions trying to ensure that all students have access to a world-class education. But solutions have proved elusive.

Thanks to innovators like Salmon Khan and forward-thinking schools like MIT, the answer may finally be here and at a price that's impossible to beat.

Lips is a senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute.