Monday, April 1, 2013

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UT courses a hit on edX

Just three days after posting new online courses on the ground-breaking platform of edX, the University of Texas System reports nearly 15,000 students from around the world have enrolled in four UT courses, ranging in topics from Energy 101 to The Impact of Drug Development.

Energy 101, which will give students an overview of energy technologies, fuels, environmental impacts and public policies, is leading the pack with more than 5,000 registrants as of today. The other two courses are Ideas of the 20th Century, a look at how philosophy, art, literature and history shaped the last century and the world today, and Age of Globalization, which examines historical and cultural systems that are driving globalization and changing societies around the world.

EdX will host all nine courses submitted by UT Austin with four open for registration now and five more coming later in the year. Courses from other UT institutions are expected to be included within the year.

This is a major step in the UT System’s partnership with edX, the online learning initiative founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and launched in May 2012. The UT System, one of the largest public university systems in the United States, was the first university system to partner with edX and announced the collaboration in October 2012. EdX is a nonprofit organization that is bringing in a growing number of high-profile university partners to offer what are known as massive open online courses, or MOOCs.

“We are so proud of these courses and the fact that they will showcase our outstanding faculty on a global stage,” said Gene Powell, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, who registered for Energy 101. “The success of these inaugural courses is an important step in achieving our goals of  better meeting the learning needs of a wide range of students, raising graduation rates and cutting the cost of higher education, all while maintaining our commitment to education of the highest quality. The fact that we are seeing this much progress just five months after the Regents approved our partnership with edX is amazing.” 

In addition to serving a global community of online students, the UT System plans to redesign general education courses and traditional entry-level courses that are too often made up of several hundred students. Through its Institute for Transformational Learning (ITL), the UT System plans to give students more options by offering courses that are customized to student needs. For example, the UT System plans to offer courses that use a combination of technology and face-to-face interaction, courses that allow students to manage their own time by accelerating through sections they have already mastered or spending more time on areas they find challenging, and fully online courses so students are not limited by their location.

“This is absolutely a watershed moment in higher education and I am so proud that the UT system is playing such a large role in it,” said Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the UT System. “These MOOCs are now catalysts for discussions of pedagogy, student success and excellence. These aren’t the online courses of yesterday. They are truly remarkable.”

With a global audience, there’s no limit to how many students UT might reach.

“We're very excited to have these courses in the pipeline and up for the public to see what our professors will be offering on edX in the fall. We've been working very closely with our partners at edX and UT System to make sure we have high-quality offerings that reflect the best faculty expertise and the course quality you expect from The University of Texas at Austin,” said Dr. Harrison Keller, Vice Provost for Higher Education Policy and Research at UT Austin. “Registrants will find a broad range of subject matter in course materials that use the best practices we've already developed in online learning with our own undergraduates.”

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and a fall 2012 enrollment of roughly 216,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state’s health care professionals annually. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $13.9 billion (FY 2013) including $3.1 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With more than 87,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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