Education Writer

FREE online courses are set to be offered by UCT next year, allowing anyone, anywhere in the world access to its academics and researchers.

Massive Open Online Courses - or Moocs as they are known - are sweeping across global higher education.

According to Sandra Klopper, deputy vice-chancellor of strategic issues relating to teaching and learning at the university, these free online courses with no entry requirements were designed for mass participation and trusted that students would drive their own education.

“Moocs are a relatively recent development in the innovation of online learning – this time, offering to anyone with Internet access a taste of university-level learning without the demands or cost of formal assessment. Moocs allow for features such as interactive online forums that can involve hundreds of students in peer-to-peer discussions, as well as access to video and audio lectures, and course materials in online format.”

She said the university had decided to develop its own online courses because it was believed the university had knowledge and learning that would be of interest to people locally and globally.

Klopper said UCT had last month partnered with British-based Moocs provider FutureLearn.

She said several courses were currently being developed for next year’s launch.

“We are working on a number of course proposals – in fields such as medicine, health sciences and the arts. UCT’s first courses will be delivered through FutureLearn in 2015.

“They will be offered for free to anyone in the world with an Internet connection to join through the partnering platforms.”

Klopper said while there had been an increase in free online learning enrolments across the world there were no African universities offering Moocs.

Simon Nelson, chief executive of FutureLearn, said it had partnered with a number of top universities around the world.

“I’m delighted that these prestigious universities have selected FutureLearn as the platform for their free online courses. The benefits to our learners are undeniable; offering access to a growing collective of world-leading academics and centres of higher education,” he said in a press statement.

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