UWEC looking at offering unique online classes - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UWEC looking at offering unique online classes

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - UW-Madison is offering a unique set of online classes free to anyone with Internet access. There's just one small catch, passing the class doesn't mean you get credit. UW-Eau Claire is looking at offering the classes as well. But first, they're doing their homework.

"There are a lot of questions left to be answered," said Dr. Michael Wick, UW-Eau Claire Associate Vice Chancellor.

Called massive open online classes, or MOOC's, they're offered free to anyone with Internet access through an agreement between the school and an outside company like Coursera.

"You're MOOC's, developed for the campus, would be uploaded to their site. And then students gain access through that site. You complete the course, and then they recommend to campuses what this course might count for as far as credits," Wick explained.

And that's just it, there's no guarantee anyone actually gets college credit. Right now, UW- Eau Claire has one professor testing the idea.

"It's an access issue for us, and it's a wonderful opportunity for students who have limited financial means, who may have holes in their background that they want to address prior to coming to our campus," said Wick.

A student we spoke with liked the idea, but had questions herself.

"Just being able to take a class in my own time does sound interesting, but because you're not being guaranteed the credit, why would someone want to waste their time doing that if they don't know for sure if they're going to get the credit for it," said Emily Kjerstad, a UW-Eau Claire sophomore.

Professors would be paid for posting content, but not using state dollars.

"In the Madison case, I think they're working through their foundation, using donor dollars to develop these MOOC's. In other cases, contracts with external agencies like Coursera and others, they can enter into a financial relationship to repay the faculty member,"

For now, the university says it's happy to let others lead the way.

"We've decided at this point to kind of allow the industry to look into those questions," Wick said.

UW-Madison is a;ready offering the classes, and it's not alone. The University of Minnesota and Penn State University also have course offerings available.

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