Nonprofit group to offer institutions online courses

Mehgan Lee

Higher-education institutions around the world will have access to premade online courses they can deliver to students next year.

A nonprofit education group, the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education, received a $1.5 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to develop an online warehouse of the courses.

Currently, most online courses are created by the institutions offering them. The new online warehouse, the National Repository of Online Courses, will try to change that.

The warehouse, which will begin offering courses in September 2005, will save higher-education institutions the time and money it takes to independently develop their own online courses, said Gary Lopez, the institute’s executive director. He said the institutions will pay a small fee to use the premade courses.

“Our business-model intention is to break even,” he said. “We want to make sure cost isn’t a barrier.”

Some courses will be available to charitable organizations and public Web sites for free, Lopez said.

“The more students we can service and educate, that’s how we’ll measure our success,” he said.

The online courses will also be available to high school students, advanced placement students and professional organizations.

The courses present material using streaming video and audio, as well as interactive models, pictures and text.

“They are not just a bunch of lecture notes or PowerPoint presentations,” Lopez said.

Primary academic institutions from around the country contribute the courses. Lopez said the courses must meet national curricular standards to be accepted to the warehouse.

Jane Hancock, the University’s director of independent and distance learning for the College of Continuing Education, said she will take a look at the online repository.

“It sounds extremely interesting,” she said.

Hancock said there is no way to track the number of online courses the University offers, because they are offered in multiple departments.

The University’s distance and independent learning department had approximately 50 online courses that 1,912 students took from June 2003 to June 2004, Hancock said.

Most of those courses were developed by the instructors who taught them, she said.

“Faculty like to put their own stamp on the subjects they teach,” she said.

Music professor Alex Lubet, who is currently developing an online music and movie class for the College of Continuing Education, said he agreed.

“I take personal pride in the way my classes go,” he said.

“The idea of plugging into someone else’s courses and lectures is more responsibility than I would like to yield.”

Instructors could change the online courses from the warehouse to better fit their curriculums, Lopez said.

“The flexibility allows modifying courses regionally, appropriate to the audience,” he said.