Universities like Harvard and Stanford are offering online courses, also known as MOOCs, for free. UTA is hosting a conference on that topic in December.

Universities like Harvard and Stanford now offer free online courses, also known as MOOCs. UTA is hosting a conference about this new way of learning in December.

The University of Texas at Arlington is hosting a conference about online learning in December with the help of a $97,200 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The event will bring in speakers from universities around the country that offer massive open online courses, otherwise known as MOOCs.

Online education has become a bigger topic of conversation in recent months as students find economical ways to get a college education and top universities try to reach more students. Several prestigious schools like Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are now offering online courses for free.

Whether MOOCs are good for students and education though is the subject of much debate. According to some reports, more than 90 percent of students who enroll in these online courses drop out. Some of those students have complained that they feel isolated and not engaged when taking online classes.

Titled “MOOCs and Emerging Educational Models: Policy, Practice and Learning,” the UTA event is a collaboration with the MOOC Research Initiative at the University of Athabasca in Canada.

George Siemens, an organizer of this initiative, says some pioneers of this type of learning will be at the conference. And, as he points out here, digital learning isn’t going anyway anytime soon.