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This fall and spring, an estimated 100,000 students will take five courses offered by six of the best faculty members at Carolina.

None will pay tuition. None will have to set foot on campus and none will receive a grade or earn credits toward a degree.

All of the students, though, will get a chance to learn using an educational delivery system that, until a few years ago, would have been unimaginable. These 100,000 students are among the millions of students around the world now taking courses from some of the top universities in the world through massive open online courses, otherwise known as MOOCs.

University leaders are intent on finding out how MOOCs might redefine higher education, if only by extending its reach throughout the world.

“Accessibility has been a part of Carolina’s charter since it was founded as the country’s first public university,” says Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives Carol Tresolini. “We do not see MOOCs as changing our mission, but expanding our ability to reach and serve a broader array of people than ever before.”

There is no campus group better suited to do that than the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education, which partnered with University faculty, information technology professionals, librarians and experts in instructional design to develop multiple courses across different disciplines and present them through Coursera, an online education company.

Tresolini led the MOOCs task force that in February selected the following courses from the proposals that faculty members submitted for consideration. The courses and their instructors are:

“What we were looking for were people who were interested in exploring different approaches to teaching and learning,” Tresolini said. “At the same time, each course had to be grounded in good, sound, evidence-based educational practices.

“These five MOOCs will be exposing thousands of people to UNC-Chapel Hill, and the instructors involved with each course did a wonderful job designing them to ensure a high level of excellence.”

Read more in the University Gazette.

Published November 4, 2013.