Manchester has become the latest in a string of universities to partner with an online education company to provide free online courses to anyone with internet access.
The University of Manchester became the third UK university to sign a deal with Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider Coursera last week.
“Signing up to any of these courses will be free to participants, and we expect that many thousands of people will take part. MOOCs are seen by some as the future of online education,” said Associate Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students, Professor Richard Reece.
The University are currently offering four MOOCs, including courses in Water Supply and Sanitation in Developing Countries, and Our Earth: its Climate, History and Processes.
The courses are expected to start in the first quarter of 2014, and highlight areas of research strength and high teaching quality at Manchester, according to a University press release.
“The development of these courses is an important step for Manchester,” said Prof Reece. “They will appeal to a broad audience from across the globe, and will form an important part of fulfilling our commitment to social responsibility.”
MOOCs were launched in an attempt to provide wider access to higher education at a time when tuition fee hikes discouraged people from applying to university. Typically, the online courses, such as those provided by Coursera, have taped lectures, automated testing, and reduced student-teacher contact. Unique to Coursera is a system where students vote on which questions should rise to the professor’s attention.
Professior Sebastian Thrun of Stanford University set up Udacity, a pioneering online education company that delivers courses in maths, science and design. This led to the launch of similar online education companies, including Stanford-based Courera.
12 other universities partnered with MOOC provider last week, including the Netherlands’ Eindhoven Institute of Technology, University of Lausanne in Switzerland, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, bringing the total number of higher education institution collaborators to 100.
Coursera’s Co-Founder Daphne Koller said, “We are proud to welcome to the Coursera partnership this group of outstanding institutions from 11 different countries, demonstrating the ever-growing global impact of this movement, and providing students everywhere access to an even more diverse set of perspectives.
Other courses offered by the University are An Introduction to Population Health, and Global Health and Humanitarianism.
More courses are expected to be added soon.
Prof Reece added, “Manchester is determined to produce some of the best and highest quality online courses to showcase our excellence in distance education and to benefit both students across the world and those here in Manchester.”