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VOL. 36 | NO. 38 | Friday, September 21, 2012




Vanderbilt to begin offering free online courses

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Vanderbilt University will offer a selection of free online classes beginning in the spring.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/QoGj0N) reports the school will offer five courses that are taught by faculty members, but they can't be used for college credits.

The program is part of the digital learning consortium called Coursera, an online platform developed last year at Stanford University for open-access classes. The courses that will be offered are known as massively open online courses or MOOCs and include one on online games.

"At Vanderbilt, we have the luxury of teaching extraordinary students in small classes and of working in close collaboration with undergraduates, graduate students and other faculty," said English professor Jay Clayton, who will teach the online games class. "We will never give up that advantage — it's what makes Vanderbilt distinctive — but that doesn't mean we shouldn't look for innovative ways to use new media to enrich the on-campus community.

"Coursera gives us something more: the opportunity to reach out to a global audience and stimulate fresh thinking, share cutting-edge ideas and provide new knowledge to people who will never have the chance to come study at Vanderbilt in person."

Some other universities around the state say they are reviewing the concept of MOOCs, but don't have immediate plans to offer them.

Tennessee Board of Regents spokeswoman Monica Greppin-Watts said online degree programs are offered in which students can earn up to a master's degree, but there aren't any free offerings. Schools under the Board of Regents include Middle Tennessee State University, East Tennessee State University, Tennessee Tech University, Austin Peay State University, University of Memphis, Tennessee State University and the state's community colleges.

University of Tennessee spokeswoman Gina Stafford said she wasn't aware of free courses being offered by any campuses.

"We are aware of the availability of massive open online courses and, at this point, can say that UT leadership continues to seriously review and study what we can best offer to a broader student population in an affordable manner," Stafford said. "No final determinations have been made."

Lipscomb University and Belmont University had similar responses.

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