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TMCNet:  UW-Madison to offer free public online courses starting in fall

[February 21, 2013]

UW-Madison to offer free public online courses starting in fall

Feb 21, 2013 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced Wednesday it's joining the MOOC movement, piloting four courses to the masses via the web that anyone in the world with a computer can take for free.

UW-Madison was among 29 universities in several countries that announced new partnerships with the online learning company Coursera, a platform for massive open online courses called MOOCs.

Private funding supports MOOCs; no state funding is involved in the free courses. As part of the partnership, Coursera promises the courses will continue to be free and will be delivered without advertising.

The courses don't offer college credit, though that possibility is being explored by established accrediting groups.

Coursera already has agreements with 33 other institutions to offer courses on its platform, including Princeton, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Johns Hopkins and Columbia universities.

"We'd rather be in the game than on the sidelines watching," said Jeff Russell, vice provost for lifelong learning and dean of UW-Madison's Division of Continuing Studies.

"Clearly, some think this is just vanity and there's no business model underneath it," Russell said. "But it's experimental space for learning to help all of us do what we do better. . . . We didn't want it to be a show horse decision, where we lunged at it. It made sense to dip a couple toes in." So, the four pilot courses that literally thousands of students around the world may take online will showcase a handful of UW-Madison's best and brightest faculty. The first two courses, Video Games and Learning and a business course, Markets with Friction, will be offered.

In spring 2014, Globalizing Higher Education and Research for the Knowledge Economy will be offered, fol lowed by a human evolution course.

"We see it as an opportunity to enhance, not replace" traditional learning on college campuses, Russell said.

MOOC courses use multimedia presentations and encourage learning through online interaction. The thousands of students who take courses interact with and help each other.

Often the material is taught in smaller chunks, with a video lasting seven to 15 minutes followed by a short quiz. Interactivity is a key part of the courses.

"What makes it different is the scale of it -- the number and distribution of people from all over the world, engaging in content and offering their own insights," Russell said.

UW-La Crosse currently is piloting a math readiness MOOC through a private grant.

Following evaluation of its four pilot courses, UW-Madison may offer up to six more MOOCs in 2014, according to Russell.

___ (c)2013 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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