Poor to receive higher education
This summer, United Nations and an Israeli entrepreneur are launching the University of the People, the world’s first tuition-free online university.
With the advocacy and support from the UN Global Alliance for Information Communications Technology and Development (GAID), the University of the People is designed to make education more accessible to individuals in developing nations.
When informed about the university, UH President Renu Khator applauded the effort.
‘We believe that higher education is an absolute good, and the more people who are given the opportunity to take advantage of it, the better,’ Khator said in an e-mail.
The non-profit university is committed to similar ideals of providing international, economic development and opportunities for social progress.
‘We are not directly part of the U.N. system,’ founder and university President Shai Reshef said. ‘But when the UN learned about our online university program, it was clear that the GAID and the University of the People shared the same mission of bringing technology and education to developing countries. We basically support each others’ vision.’
Reshef, an Israeli entrepreneur with more than 20 years in the international educational arena, said the momentum for such an institution began several years earlier. At the time, Reshef was working as chief of an online study community known as Cramster.com, a Web site where students help each other with mathematics and science.
‘In 2000, the first online university was started in the Netherlands,’ Reshef said. ‘It was extremely effective, but expensive.’
University of the People combines 300 students from about 50 different nations, targeting low-income individuals with computer access in developing countries.
Admission requirements for prospective students are 12 years of study, a high school diploma and proficiency in English.
All coursework is in English and will require students to pass two orientation courses: one in English composition and one in basic computer skills.
The university offers two majors, business administration and computer science, which require approximately 40 hours of course credit. Reshef believes this will provide the most help to students’ job status.
‘Right now we only offer coursework in computer science and business because these fields are most relevant to improving the employment status of students,’ Reshef said.
Each virtual classroom consists of approximately 20 students who can comment on and ask questions about learning material as it is presented.
Students are paired with a study buddy in each class. Individually, participants will be required to maintain an online portfolio that will feature a photograph, a short biography and a record of coursework and exams.
The University is not an official accredited institution, but Reshef’s focus is on developing skills that will enrich students’ employment opportunities.
‘We want to make sure we are doing them right by providing the best curriculum possible,’ Reshef said.
Educators at the University of the People will be composed of volunteer academic experts, guest speakers and experienced business professionals. They will work as instructors, academic directors or as part of an academic committee to set assessment standards.
The university is streamlining costs by providing online academic resources and learning materials. Part of the funding will be supplied by a sliding scale of fees for exams and applications, depending on the World Bank’s wealth ranking of each students’ home country.
Figures vary from $15 to $50 for admission and $10 to $100 for testing.
University of the People hopes to enroll 15,000 students, which would require $6 million to support.
‘I personally contributed $1 million, and we are hoping to get the rest of the funding from donations,’ Reshef said.
University of the People begins its first semester Sept. 10.
For more information, visit: http://www.uopeople.org/