Free Online Uni Gets High Marks
Free online university gets high first marks
Quote:Wed, Dec 23, 2009

Well receieved [sic] among students in its first year, University of the People adds well-known educators to its faculty lineup
By Dennis Carter, Assistant Editor

University of the People, one of the newest members of the free online education arena, is adding academic heft with credentialed faculty and advisors, and nine out of 10 students who took classes in its first term said they would recommend the university to family and friends.

Launched in September with $1 million in startup money from founder and president Shai Reshef, University of the People's inaugural class included 179 students who took web-based college courses free of charge, only paying between $10 and $100 to process exams taken at the end of the semester.

The charge depends on the student's country of residence. Admissions, study materials, and online interaction with faculty members that include retired and working professors, experts from various fields, and graduate students are available at no cost.

A university poll released last month showed that 90 percent of respondents from the first class said they would "definitely or likely recommend the school to their peers and family."

The online school also unveiled demographic information for the first time. The 120 new students joining University of the People for its second term--which began Nov. 19--are between 18 and 63 years old and hail from 47 countries.

Eighty-two students in the newest class are taking business administration courses, and 38 are enrolled in computer science classes.

University officials plan to expand their course offerings in the coming years. University of the People's third term starts in mid-January, Reshef said. University officials decided to split the school year into five terms instead of three because the institution's pedagogy called for shorter, more focused lessons and reviews.

Officials were somewhat surprised by students' overwhelming approval, Reshef said, because faculty members are searching for the best ways to manage classes that include students proficient in English and others who speak English as a second language.

"We expected some bumps in the road, and we're still expecting them," Reshef said. "There will always be surprises. And not everything was smooth and perfect, but our students are happy with the opportunity we provide them, so they're patient with us."

Reshef said University of the People professors documented stark contrasts in class participation. Whereas American students would ask series of questions during online lectures, students from Asian countries rarely followed up with queries.

"In some cultures, asking questions is very positive," he said. "In some cultures, it's an admittance of not knowing the material ... so it is all about perception."

Reshef announced this month that David Harris Cohen, former vice president and dean of Columbia University, and Alexander Tuzhilin, a New York University professor of information systems, were named as the university's provost and computer science chair, respectively.
Interesting. The cost is right. Its not accredited but I guess its still new.

Just two programs though. No graduate degree programs. Well maybe this will change.
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I've just heard about University of the People. Do they have plan to open for master or doctoral degree in the future?
jimmmarks Wrote:I've just heard about University of the People. Do they have plan to open for master or doctoral degree in the future?

Well, Jim, if you clicked on the link to their website and then on the FAQs there you would know the answer is:
Quote:No. Currently, University of the People does not confer any degrees. At the present our programs offers a new learning experience similar in its scope and educational rigor to academic studies towards four degrees; An Associate and BSc in Computer Science and an Associate and BA in Business Administration.

So when are you going to tell us about the cheap tennis shoes and the crank pills?
What's not to like about this?  The price is right.  And as the last line notes, it works when the choice is "this or nothing."  Are the RA or No Way clones going to tell poor people they are better off with nothing?  If the "important thing" is access to education, doesn't that mean accreditation is a most thoroughly "unimportant thing"?

Tuition-free, online education? Try University of the People
Quote:Updated 2/22/2010 1:54 PM

By Steve Kolowich

It is a grand vision: a global college with no tuition, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

When higher education entrepreneur Shai Reshef laid out his ambitious plan to build a free university that would use modern technology to spread the promise of a college degree to all corners of the earth, he got an enthusiastic reaction from some high-profile institutions. The United Nations has backed the venture. So has Yale Law School's Information Society Project. Reshef and his lieutenants also like to mention the many letters of support and offers to pitch in from professors worldwide.

But the project drew skepticism as well. Higher education has seen more than one ambitious distance education efforts fail in recent years, including the internationally focused U21 Global, and those projects had the benefit of tuition revenue.

Questions about the so-called University of the People abounded: How do you build quality programs without charging tuition? How effective would the project's peer-to-peer pedagogical model be in classrooms of students from vastly different cultural and educational traditions? Who would accredit such an operation at a time when the perceived value — even necessity — of a postsecondary education is ascendant in virtually every country? Reshef's heart seems to be in the right place. But is his head?

A year has now passed since the University of the People opened its virtual doors to the world. And while it appears to be a functioning institution where education is indeed taking place, questions about the project's long-term viability — and its ability to replicate the essential functions of an actual university — are yet to be answered.

The biggest question is the most obvious, and that's money. Higher education might trade in ideas, but it runs on dollars. So how do you deliver education without tuition revenue?

Thriftily. The University of the People relies on free syllabuses and learning materials from open courseware projects at institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It currently offers only two programs, business administration and computer science, and employs only five paid instructors.

Those instructors administer courses designed by a corps of faculty volunteers numbering about 800, by Reshef's count. Those professors put together courses using open courseware. They also write the final exams, which is one of the two ways the university makes its money; students pay to take the exams — between $10 and $100 each, depending on country of residence (students from poorer countries pay lower fees).

The other revenue comes from admission fees, which also run from $10 to $100 according to country. Admissions criteriaare rigorous and designed to weed out students who do not have high school certificates and a firm enough grasp of the English language to participate successfully in college-level courses.

Now in its third term, the University of the People has received 3,000 applications and admitted 380 students.

Reshef last year predicted it would take an enrollment of 10,000 within five years to make the university financially sustainable, though he has upped that estimate to 15,000 in more recent interviews. Since the fees are tied to geography, that number could still change depending on where applicants wind up coming from, Reshef says. The project has not charged any fees yet, and is still leaning on its $5 million in seed money — $1 million of which came from Reshef's own pocket.

Soliciting help from faculty who are busy with obligations to their home institutions can be unwieldy, Reshef says, and some have failed to deliver on promises. The trick, he says, is to use pro bono labor smartly. "You never rely on a volunteer to a point where if one of them decides to stop, you're being stopped," he says.

Philip Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, is not as confident as Reshef in the long-term sustainability of the University of the People's model. "I don't think you can, in the long run, rely on volunteer faculty," Altbach says. "You're going to most likely get folks who are retired from Western institutions who have the time, but not necessarily the expertise, that is needed."

But Heidi Gartenberg, the project's academic resources director, notes that "the day-to-day operations of the university are not reliant on volunteers." And if delinquency ever required the university to start contracting academics for course development, Gartenberg says, "this would not dramatically affect our business model."

There are currently nine courses ready to be taught, and 20 more in development, according to Reshef.

The manner in which those courses will be taught has also raised eyebrows. The University of the People uses a "peer-to-peer" learning model: Students are directed to the appropriate open course material, then encouraged to discuss it in online forums. The instructors log in several times daily to monitor discussions among students and interject when necessary. Students can send messages — either through the e-learning environment's chat feature or via e-mail — to their instructors if they are stuck.

But for the most part the students are expected to learn autonomously, by studying the open courseware materials and talking through concepts among themselves.

While many U.S. colleges offer seminars that operate in a similar way, having the professor in a marginal role might negatively affect learning outcomes, says Altbach — particularly when dealing with more difficult concepts. "I don't think that's a model that provides disciplined knowledge over a field of study," he says.

The best test of whether students are actually learning, of course, is how they do on the exams, which are developed by professors outside the university as part of the course-development process.

However, the data available as of the project's one-year anniversary have little to say about the long-term effectiveness of the model. The University of the People has data only from its first-term exams, when it taught just two orientation-level courses: English Composition and Skills for Online Learning. The pass rates were 86% and 74%, respectively; not bad, though there is no guarantee that students will perform as well on more advanced courses advertisedon the university's website, such as Comparative Programming Languages and Business Policy and Strategy.

One undeniable accomplishment is that University of the People has generated a lot of buzz from students. It has attracted 3,000 applications this year without a marketing budget. According to Internal surveys conducted during each of the first two terms, about 90% of the students there said they would recommend University of the People to a friend. And several students contacted through a University of the People Facebook group seemed enthusiastic about the free online college.

"[I] can feel that i have learn a lot from my colleagues and also from my devoted instructors and i know i will fit into any organization after i graduate because everything we learn here at the University of the People is practical and i really enjoy it a lot," Enoch Ampong, a 23-year-old Ghanaian who plans to study business administration, wrote in an e-mail. "[I] cant wait to tell the world about this wonderful experience," he added.

There is, however, an elephant in the room: University of the People is not currently authorized to award degrees.

The process of gaining license to give out degrees is a complex one — made even more complex since California, where University of the People is based, recentlyrestructuredits bureaucracy for approving postsecondary programs. Reshef says the university is currently studying what it needs to do to get approval to grant degrees in California, but that might not be the end of it; online programs have for years struggledwith state laws requiring them to gain approval from every state where they are educating students — a potentially lengthy, expensive process.

And that's just in the United States; foreign countries vary widely in their processes for approving institutions that wish to award degrees inside their borders.

In other words, there is no guarantee that the students currently enrolled in courses at University of the People will qualify for a degree upon completing the four-year course of study; and if they do, that degree might not be seen as legitimate by their home country.

Reshef told Inside Higher Eda year ago that he expects University of the People to attract students who are looking for degrees more than simply taking courses for learning's sake, and a number of current students say it is important that they walk away from their studies at University of the People with a respected credential. Purusoth Sundhar, a 19-year-old from Sri Lanka, says he is relying on a degree in order to get a job.

Oka Sudiana, a 26-year-old from Indonesia, says that while he is already employed as an aeronautical engineer, he needs a management credential to advance his career. "I really hope [the university gives me a degree]," he says, "Because honestly, we all need degrees."

Ivonna Della, 21, also from Indonesia, says she is encouraged that University of the People's partnerships with well-reputed institutions such as Yale Law School will increase the likelihood that it will be authorized to give out degrees.

"I'm pretty optimistic that they can give me degree by the time I graduate, and hopefully I can use that degree to find a job," Della wrote in an e-mail.

However, she adds that even without a degree, her time at the universities will not have been for naught. "[If] by the time I graduate they still not offering any degree, then it will be disappointing I must admit," she says, "but I think I will be pretty happy with all the material that they have tought[sic] me. That's kinda the big point why I'm joining UoPeople, not bcause[sic] of their degree but their educational program."

The University of the People is also not accredited. It doesn't need to be to award degrees, but it does if it hopes to award degrees that hold much weight among many employers or persuade other higher-education institutions to count its students' credits.

Reshef says that University of the People is currently seeking accreditation in the United States, and that he couldn't comment on its progress for legal reasons. But Madeleine F. Green, vice president for international initiatives at the American Council on Education, said she is skeptical about its prospects. "An accreditation agency looks at institutional management, it looks at governance, it looks at finances," Green says. "U.S. accreditation wasn't really made for this kind of creature. I think they would have to do a lot of bending and rethinking to have regional accreditation fit this model."

Then again, a lot of institutions that don't fit the traditional university mold find a way of getting accredited somewhere, says Altbach. However, he says it does higher education no good to stretch the definition of a "university" unduly. Perhaps, Altbach says, the University of the People should not be considered a "university" per se, but merely a service that facilitates students' use of a growing reservoir of open courseware movement materials.

Gartenberg says concentrating on labels misses the point. "We are not trying to replace traditional universities," she says. "In fact, we look to them for counsel and guidance. What we are trying to do is provide an educational opportunity to those who otherwise don't have it."

For the sort of students University of the People attracts, Reshef says, the approval of an accrediting body might be nice, but the important thing is being able to have access to college-level educational resources. "Whether it's accredited or not accredited," he says, "it's a question of getting this or nothing."
University of the People just got a $500,000 grant from the Gates Foundation to pursue accreditation.

Quote:June 19, 2012 ...

•$500,000 to University of the People (UoPeople) to support the pursuit of accreditation. UoPeople is the world’s first tuition-free, non-profit, online academic institution dedicated to opening access to higher education globally. Based on the principles of e-learning and peer-to-peer learning, coupled with open-source technology and Open Educational Resources, UoPeople is designed to provide qualified individuals, despite financial, geographic or societal constraints, access to undergraduate degree programs.
I notice that UoPeople now is offering degrees:

Quote:Currently, University of the People offers four undergraduate degrees: Associate (A.S.) and Bachelor (B.S.) degrees in Computer Science and Associate (A.S.) and Bachelor (B.S.) degrees in Business Administration. The University will offer an MBA program only to its graduates.

These look like outstanding programs, the obvious down side being the lack of accreditation.

Now that accreditation is in the wind, would it be worth the gamble?

A "free" degree that just might be accredited in four or five years vs an expensive one with no greater utility? Would you fade high profile people with money voting with their wallets?
Just read up on the "UW flexible degree program"...I like it!.....Once again chickens come home to roost for Bear/Klempner and Contrer-ass.....I remember, not to long ago...when these very people were mocking non RA schools that charged "flat rates" for degrees or flat rates for blocks of time"...seems that the "UW flex model" may be initiating a payment system, for SIX MONTH BLOCKS of time!...Who knows?...Maybe they may even charge by the degree program, in the near future...The very thing that was derided by the anti-RA Distance Learning crowd, now appears to be going mainstream....I love it!....Boy-oh-Boy!...seems like Dr. Henteleff is looking more and more like a "Distance Learning Prophet"....after these new revelations....What a great man Dr. Henteleff is...he was an outstanding academic adviser to so many....a scholar and gentleman.
errata...concerning my prior post....I meant to say "derided by the pro-RA" distance learning that as it must chap their hides...Bear and!
(06-22-2012, 06:41 AM)Martin Eisenstadt Wrote: Would you fade high profile people with money voting with their wallets?

And the answer is, "no." In the accreditation game money talks, and UofPeople is now DETC accredited. Seven lucky risk-takers will be scoring free accredited degrees.

Quote:Free Online University Receives Accreditation, in Time for Graduating Class of 7

By TAMAR LEWIN FEB. 13, 2014

Just in time for its first graduates, the University of the People, a tuition-free four-year-old online institution built to reach underserved students around the world, announced Thursday that it had received accreditation.

“This is every exciting, especially for the students who will graduate in April, with a degree from an accredited institution,” said Shai Reshef, the Israeli entrepreneur who invested millions of dollars to create the nonprofit university. “This has been the big question for anyone who thought about enrolling. We have 1.2 million supporters on Facebook, I think second only to Harvard, and every day, there is discussion about when we will be accredited.”

Now, with accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, a national accrediting group, Mr. Reshef said, the university will expand significantly. He expects to have 5,000 students by 2016.

The university currently has 700 students from 142 countries enrolled in its degree programs in business administration and computer science. About 30 percent are from Africa and 25 percent from the United States, most of whom were born outside the country. While the first graduating class is tiny, only seven students, it shows the broad reach of the university: One of the graduates is from Syria and another from Jordan.

From the start, Mr. Reshef has said that he aimed to show developing countries that it is possible to provide higher education to all, at a low cost. Classes are deliberately low-tech, with text-based open-source materials, since so many potential students around the world have no access to broadband or video. Some students participate via mobile devices. The university has never charged any tuition, although students pay $0 to $50 to apply, depending on the wealth of the country they come from. In addition, exams, which are proctored in their home country, cost $100, with a variety of scholarships for those who cannot afford that fee.

“We want to make sure that no student is left out for financial reasons,” Mr. Reshef said.

Although the last few years have brought an explosion of online courses, including massive open online offerings from new ventures like Coursera and edX, the University of the People remains unique.

Classes at the university are 10 weeks long, and have 20 to 30 students — often from as many different countries — who have weekly homework and quizzes. The university depends largely on volunteer labor. Mr. Reshef said some 3,000 professors have offered to volunteer, although so far the university has only been able to use about 100 of them.

Its deans are volunteers from New York University and Columbia.

“Many people have been attracted by the possibility of opening opportunities for students from so many different backgrounds,” Mr. Reshef said.

The University of the People, almost from the start, has attracted high-level support, with partnerships or backing from New York University, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the OpenCourseWare Consortium and many others. In August, Microsoft agreed to provide scholarships, mentoring and job opportunities to 1,000 African students who enroll at the University of the People.

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