The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

February 3, 2013

WVU launching free online classes

CHARLESTON — There’s no homework, no tuition and no tests. No credit, either. But now anyone with access to the Web can become a college student.

In February, West Virginia University is launching a series of free online courses taught by professors. The experiment follows a national trend, and the courses are open to anyone anywhere.

The only requirements are an Internet connection and an eagerness to learn something new.

The one-week courses start Monday with “Learning to Cope with our Robot Overloads.” The first batch focuses on technology and social media, which communications professor Nick Bowman says are logical topics for online learners.

The Feb. 11 class will focus on online relationships. It’s called “Love at First Like.”

A class on cyberbullying follows Feb. 18, and the month wraps up with a course called “Understanding and Conquering Technology Overload” on Feb. 25.

Bowman says the online courses allow students to do as much or as little work as they like.

After registering for his class, students have access to a website that offers other material. Bowman has uploaded some lectures to YouTube and posted PowerPoint presentations and links to more information on his page.

Access to higher education can be limited by distance and finances, Bowman said. The online courses break down those barriers. They might also encourage more people to consider saving up for and eventually enrolling in college.

He expects international students to participate but hopes West Virginians will also log on.

“The kids of coal miner families aren’t going into the mine,” he said. “You’re seeing this huge shift in how people make their money. There’s huge disconnect between Morgantown and the rest of the state. This closes that disconnect.”

Online courses also let professors share what they’re doing with the world outside their classrooms.

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