Free Online College Courses Available through Rutgers

State university joins massive open online course platform to expand educational opportunities in New Jersey.

Rutgers University is offering a way for people to pursue an education online by expanding access to Web-based courses.

The state university announced Thursday that it is joining Coursera, a massive open online course platform that provides free, non-credit courses to students and lifelong learners around the world.

A MOOC is an online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the Web. It’s not unusual for tens of thousands of people to sign on simultaneously to one course. Although similar to college courses, MOOCs typically do not offer academic credit.

Coursera has more than two million users around the world and offers hundreds of courses from prestigious colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad, including Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, University of Michigan, Brown, University of London International Programmes, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Melbourne.

“These are exciting and rapidly changing times for higher education,” said Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi. “Using massive open online courses, Rutgers will join our peer institutions in the U.S. and around the world in providing boundless access to top-flight instruction in the numerous disciplines where Rutgers excels. Our hope is that some of these thousands of students will go on to apply to our online or on-campus degree programs.”

  “We’re working hard to continue to build our network of university partners to offer a high quality learning experience to anyone who wants it,” said Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller. “One of our top priorities is to reach the people who need education the most, including those who would not otherwise have access to the type of courses offered by the institutions we have the honor of working with.”

According to Coursera, 29 universities, including Rutgers, have joined the 33 other institutions that offer free online courses on its platform.

Initially, Rutgers will offer three courses on the Coursera platform: “Analyzing the Universe,” a science course created in partnership with NASA and Harvard University led by Rutgers professor Terry Matilsky; “Soul Beliefs,” an interdisciplinary review of beliefs about the soul, with professors Len Hamilton and Dan Ogilvie; and, in partnership with a wide range of Rutgers faculty, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and researcher James Martin will lead a course based on his latest book, “The Future of Humankind.”

Rutgers recently announced the creation of Rutgers Online. The initiative began in January and will offer more than 20 fully online master’s degrees by the end of the 2013-14 academic year. Rutgers has offered online courses since 1999, initially only at the graduate level. Currently, there are more than 15,000 enrollments each year in Rutgers online courses.

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