Information as currency – is this a two-way street?

At least three notable universities, Harvard, Yale and Stanford are pushing the envelope in higher education by offering their “product” for free. This is wonderful news, but I can’t help but wonder – what are they getting out of this? If this model is anything like we’ve seen in the past, the currency is information. But how will they use it?

We’ve seen information-as-currency model work for tech companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon. The warm fuzzy feeling many of us get when we think about them is an intricate ruse to court and keep us so we’ll keep feeding them information about ourselves, so they can court and keep us better and more often. But companies that follow this model have traditionally made their money from advertising, not education.

Can it ever be a bad thing to be plied with education as effectively as we are advertising? My guess is probably, at some point. In the meantime I’ll be busy frequenting the links below.

  • Yale is currently offering 10 free courses available in video format.
  • Harvard’s Open Learning Initiative provides an assortment of videos.
  • And Standford is launching 14 free courses in January and February (that’s now!).
  • And here is a crazy number of free courses put together by OpenCulture.
  • MIT is a story for a different day, but they are offering a free Learning Management System (LMS), MITx, that will enable schools with fewer resources to craft their own courses with world-class technology. OCW Scholar is a series of science and math courses currently offered by MIT through this platform