Duke to Offer Online Courses for Credit

Duke is joining a consortium that will each provide online courses for students at all institutions

Duke University students will be able to take online courses for credit from Duke and nine other selective American institutions under an agreement announced Thursday.

The 10 colleges and universities will each contribute a small number of online courses to the venture, called "Semester Online." Their students will be able to enroll and earn credit from the courses, regardless of which school developed them.

Along with Duke, the member institutions are: Brandeis University, Emory University, Northwestern University, UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, University of Rochester, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University and Washington University in St. Louis.

The venture is expected to start in fall 2013 and is supported by 2U, an online education company that will provide coordination and the technical infrastructure.

"This partnership lets us enrich and broaden the curriculum we can offer to our students in areas where we don't have extensive coverage," said Duke Provost Peter Lange. "We'll be able to learn more about the various online teaching techniques we can integrate into our classroom teaching, and we can extend the expertise of our faculty to a significantly larger student body."

Earlier this year, Duke entered into an online venture with Coursera, a company that provides a platform to deliver free courses without formal academic credit to anyone in the world who chooses to enroll. Semester Online is different in that students pay for the courses and receive credit from their college or university. Semester Online courses will be capped at 300 students, with individual sections limited to no more than 20. By contrast, the Coursera classes have unlimited enrollment, with some already topping 100,000 students, participating online worldwide.

"We're experimenting," Lange said. "We believe both educational models have merit, and we're interested in seeing how they both go."

The regular tuition Duke students pay will cover the cost of Semester Online courses, with no extra charge. There may be a limit to the number of online courses a student can take in a semester; that and other details have not yet been worked out, Lange said.

The courses will combine live and online elements and encourage students to collaborate through virtual classrooms. Students will be able to learn online through lectures, demonstrations and exercises and will collaborate with peers through online small group sections.

Lange said Duke plans to offer two or three Semester Online courses initially and may eventually provide as many as six, although it has not yet determined which classes it will develop.

"The Semester Online will give our students more flexibility in their course scheduling," said Susan Lozier, chair of Duke's Academic Council. "For example, students studying abroad, on an internship or taking part in DukeEngage or Duke Immerse would not have to be on Duke's campus to take a required course."

"We want to help great schools go online," said Chip Paucek, 2U's co-founder and chief executive officer. "Technology can provide high-quality learning experiences, empowering students to continue their education as they follow their ambitions, anywhere."

For more information, visit semesteronline.org. Additional information on Semester Online courses and the application process will be available in early 2013.

Below: Duke Provost Peter Lange discusses Duke's new venture into online education for credit.