U of M to offer free online courses, joins 'MOOC' movement

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The University of Minnesota is preparing to offer its first Massive Open Online Courses, often called MOOCs, this spring.

University officials announced late Wednesday night that the U would partner with fledgling California-based education company Coursera to offer the MOOCs, the Star Tribune reported.

The courses in most cases will be free and open to anyone in the world, meaning tens of thousands could learn from the same professor at the same time, MPR reports.

One drawback: For now, the U of M is not offering course credit if a student completes a MOOC.

The Star Tribune reports that five U of M professors so far plan to create new MOOC courses, including “Sustainability of Food Systems” and “Interprofessional Healthcare Informatics.”

“This partnership will give people from around the world the opportunity to learn from the U’s world-class faculty at a time when we are working harder than ever to increase access to higher education, reach broader audiences and strengthen our land-grant mission," University Provost Karen Hanson said in a press release.

The U of M and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are among a growing number of universities offering free online courses through their websites.

The schools are among 29 new institutions – and about 50 total – partnering with Coursera, the Associated Press reports.

MOOCs are a growing, fast-evolving trend in higher education. Top universities such as Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology offer them to all.

More of the world's elite universities are joining those that offer MOOCs, although it remain unclear whether the courses will help more students earn college degrees, the Associated Press reports.

Coursera and edX, two of the leading MOOC providers, on Thursday announced major expansions that will roughly double the number of universities offering the courses via their websites, the AP reported.

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