MORGANTOWN, WV (AP) — West Virginia University is teaming up with nine other universities in expanding its online course offerings through a partnership with the education company Coursera.
Massive open online courses are called MOOCs,. WVU Provost Michele Wheatly says they're part of a revolution in group learning — a massive experiment in online instruction with potentially tens of thousands of students in a single class.
WVU President Jim Clements says the partnership supports WVU's mission of providing greater access to students.
Other partners announcing the venture Thursday include the State University of New York and the universities of Colorado, Houston, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, Georgia and Tennessee.
Last week, WVU said it was reorganizing its extended and online learning areas under the umbrella of Academic Innovation, giving faculty a place to experiment with emerging tools. The initiative will be led by Associate Vice President for Academic Innovation Sue Day-Perroots.
She said the relationship with Coursera lets WVU offer its own courses more widely and lets it draw from other schools to offer new material.
The first MOOCs will debut next spring and will likely be non-credit courses in subjects including radio astronomy, public health and 21st century skills.
WVU launched a series of free online courses in February, making them available to anyone anywhere. The only requirements were an Internet connection and an eagerness to learn something new. The first batch focused on technology and social media and allowed students to do as much or as little work as they like.
Access to higher education can be limited by distance and finances, and online courses break down those barriers. Advocates say they might also encourage more people to consider saving up for and eventually enrolling in college.
Faculty Senate Chairman Michael Mays said MOOCs are like "an interactive, multimedia textbook."
"They are perfect vehicles to explore ideas for their own sake," he said, "without the formality of transcripts and academic credit."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press