UNM expands online courses after early success

August 24, 2014 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The University of New Mexico is expanding its global presence in the [auth] online world in a massive way this fall.

School officials say they are increasing the number of free massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, after one course last semester drew thousands of students from nearly 200 countries, the Albuquerque Journal ( ) reported.

UNM will offer three more courses — Web application architecture, curanderismo — or the art of traditional healing — and a bilingual course on global business in English and Spanish.

Enrollment has already reached more than 48,000 students in 192 countries, surpassing initial projections and exceeding the entire student body of the school, officials said.

UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah says it would normally take millions of dollars in marketing costs to reach that many people. However, offering such courses remains an experiment for the university and it’s about more than numbers, Abdallah said.

“We wanted to learn, to see if (the classes) would be disruptive or whether it might complement the work we already do,” Abdallah said.

Professor Greg Heileman offered a Web application course last spring and said he taught more students that semester than he would have taught in a lifetime in a classroom.

Students in the classes can become UNM enrollees. But class credit is not given for the courses that are considered separate from regular online for-credit classes offered by UNM. Students who finish get a certificate of completion.

Coursera, a private educational technology company based in Mountain View, California, has been partnering with UNM and other schools to offer free online coursework.

Despite the initial influx of students, the company said most do not complete the courses and treat the program as an exploratory opportunity.

The completion rate is about 10 percent but goes up for students who put in more effort. UNM said those who say they want to attend the university finish at a rate of 80 percent.

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