The next iteration of online learning is on the horizon: Experts teaching free online courses to anyone.

NPR’s All Tech Considered reported on a move by a group of “rogue” Stanford professors to open their classes to anyone free of charge.  The result?  Over 10,000 students registered in two days.

“You can only imagine what those meetings must have been like, with professors telling the school they wanted to teach free, graded online classes for which students could receive a certificate of completion. And, oh by the way, tens of thousands have already signed up to participate.”

Despite the unintended (and overwhelming) response, the school has decided to embrace the change and move forward with similar courses:

“Over the years, Stanford has launched dozens of disruptive technologies into the world, but now administrators and professors seem to agree that the school may be about to disrupt itself. This semester Stanford will put 17 interactive courses online for free.”

There are obvious administrative, technical, and logistical hurdles involved in teaching a course with 100,000+ students.  Just to name one, students receive a certificate of completion from the professor that does not bear the university’s name.  But for someone who wouldn’t otherwise have access to such rich specialized content, this is only a minor detail.

As a result of the response, some of the professors are moving forward with Udacity, their own online learning environment oriented towards Computer Science.

“We believe university-level education can be both high quality and low cost. Using the economics of the Internet, we’ve connected some of the greatest teachers to hundreds of thousands of students in almost every country on Earth.”

For more information, or to read the full story, see NPR’s All Tech Considered.