New tuition-free online university
Exploring a tuition-free online university where professors volunteer and students teach each other using social media.
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The virtual doors of the University of the People open this fall. It is the brainchild of Israeli entrepreneur Shai Reshef, who is the university’s president. Reshef says, unlike other online universities, the school is tuition-free -- it charges students for tests, and the amount depends on where you live. Professors, he says, are eager to volunteer their time, and he envisions a school where students teach students using online social media sites.
The university is starting out small, with 300 students studying business administration when it opens.
Reshef says his school targets third world students who don't have the financial means to attend school, "Poor students who graduated high school, could have been accepted to a university, but either don't have the financial means -- which is a big problem all over the world; or there aren't enough universities where they live."
The emphasis on online social networking as part of academia is another big difference between his school and other online universities, said Reshef, "Students are going to gather together in virtual classrooms ... there, they are going to discuss their questions of the week with their fellow students; however, when something is not clear to them, they want to go in depth in any topic ... they can leave this virtual classroom and go into a closed forum. In the closed forum, they will find volunteering professors, graduate students and professionals who are there in order to help them with any questions they may have.
"So it's social networking in the way of people volunteering to help each other, and to help students to pursue their academic studies."
Reshef believes students can teach one another, they should have access to more than one authority on what they're studying, and students should study the way they live.
He says there are many educational materials available free online -- including MIT and other open courses that the university takes advantage of to enrich its curriculum.
And, said Reshef, he was shocked by the number of professors and others who wanted to get involved, "We have right now thousands of people approaching us and offered to help."
Reshef says a full degree could cost as little as $4,000. The university is currently not accredited, but Reshef says the school adheres to the academic and procedural regulations of accrediting agencies.
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