Thursday, March 21, 2013

Massive University Of Florida Free Online Classes

Tens Of Thousands Sign Up For Free Online University Classes

GAINSVILLE, FL. -- The University of Florida is the state’s first university to offer massive open online courses, or MOOCs which means anyone in the world can now get a taste of a UF education — for free.

Early indications are that there’s quite an appetite as there are 16,000 students in the Economic Issues, Food & You course that began Monday. There are more than 13,000 students enrolled in UF’s Sustainable Agricultural Land Management course, and the Global Sustainable Energy: Past, Present and Future course, which will launch Sunday, has more than 18,000 students already enrolled.

Even more massive is the enrollment in UF’s first MOOC, Fundamentals of Human Nutrition, which now exceeds 45,000. That’s nearly as high as UF’s total on-campus enrollment. To teach her MOOC students face-to-face, Kristina von Castel-Roberts of UF’s College of Public Health & Health Professions would need more than half the seats in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Students neither need to be admitted to UF to take the MOOCs, nor do they pay tuition. They do not receive credit for the coursework.

UF is pioneering efforts in giving away content for several reasons, explained W. Andrew McCollough, associate provost for teaching and technology.

First, it makes a UF education more accessible all over Florida and the globe. Wendell Porter, a lecturer in the department of agricultural and biological engineering, teaches the Global Sustainable Energy course. He said a MOOC gives him the potential to reach more students in a single course than he has taught in decades in the classroom or even in online courses with controlled enrollment.

Second, through its partnership with MOOC industry leader Coursera, UF stands to gain expertise in designing, marketing and staging a course for tens of thousands of students at a time. Coursera’s invitation-only consortium includes only 62 universities worldwide. UF is Coursera’s only member in Florida.

-by Chris Moran, University of Florida

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