The Corner

The Revolution That Is Free Online Education

There are many great things associated with the modern world. One of the them is the incredible amount of valuable information that we have access to online for free. The newest example of development in that area is the launch yesterday of Marginal Revolution University, or MRU. The new online education site was created by George Mason University economists Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarok and owes its name to their excellent blog, Marginal Revolution.

The first course is “Development Economics” and covers the sources of economic growth including geography, education, finance, and institutions. Here is what Tabarrok writes about the course:

We will cover theories like the Solow and O-ring models and we will cover the empirical data on development and trade, foreign aid, industrial policy, and corruption. Development Economics will include not just theory but a wealth of historical and factual information on specific countries and topics, everything from watermelon scale economies and the clove monopoly to water privatization in Buenos Aires and cholera in Haiti. A special section in this round will examine India. There are no prerequisites for this course but neither is it dumbed down. We think there will be material in Development Economics that will be of interest to high school students in the United States and Bangladesh and also to PhDs in economics, even to those who specialize in this field.

I would argue that from this course, you will learn more than you would from similar ones in most universities, including the best or most exclusive ones in the country. And the beauty of it is that it is free. Thanks to MRU, million of people in the world will be able to have access to high-quality education for free. Cowen and Tabarrok explain their reasoning behind Marginal Revolution:

I have watched most of the videos so far and they are great. You can ask questions and people including Cowen and Tabarrok will respond to you. Readers can vote for or against the different questions and responses, and the best will rise to the top of the list. It’s a very dynamic experience.

Interestingly, MRU fits nicely with the vision that the new president of George Mason has for his school. According to this story in the Washington Post on Friday, Angel Cabrera wants to push he university into the digital world. Talking about MRU, he told the Post:

“That’s an amazing Mason experiment that can help us find a way forward,” Cabrera said. He added: “We can find ways of using technology, hopefully, that allow us to reach more people, touch more lives”

So go, sign up, and enjoy the ride!

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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