University of Maine at Presque Isle (2012) UMPI announces innovative online learning project Presque Isle ME: UMPI (Press Release, August 16
UMPI, a campus of the state of Maine’s state university (USA), is offering free, open, non-credit online courses to any interested learners through a program called UMPI OpenU.
Everyone – community members and people throughout the state, nation, and the world – will be able to take part in UMPI OpenU courses. Each participant will have full access to the designated online courses and all of the materials related to them, including direct interaction with the instructors responsible for designing and delivering the courses.
UMPI is able to do this for two reasons. First, each selected course remains a for-credit class that UMPI students can take and also is available to OpenU learners; both will have access to Blackboard, the system UMPI uses to deliver online courses. This special access for OpenU participants will allow them to engage in Blackboard’s discussion boards, UMPI’s email system, and other asynchronous and synchronous activities with enrolled students and the instructor (such as written or recorded lectures). Second, they are requiring that all materials used as part of these courses are either public domain works (such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens), copyright free, or created and delivered by the instructor through Blackboard. Initially, the project will involve a slate of English courses.
UMPI OpenU learners will have the option during UMPI’s add/drop period to enroll in the course for credit, but the course may not be added for credit once the add/drop period is over. Either way, participants walk away at the end of the semester with a much deeper knowledge of the subject area they have been studying.
“You get the opportunity to interact directly with the instructor and matriculated students, to ask questions, engage in conversation, and be fully involved in the course. This is not a passive or “canned” experience, and it comes at absolutely no cost to the individual – a principle to which every instructor involved in this project is dedicated.” Dr. Ray Rice, Chair of UMPI’s College of Arts and Science
The first UMPI OpenU classes will be offered starting Fall 2012. ‘There are limited slots, so individuals interested in this opportunity are encouraged to register early.’ To learn more about UMPI OpenU, please visit www.umpi.edu/openU or call 207-768-9416.
This seems to me to be a much more valuable form of open learning than Coursera-style MOOCs. This program treats the open students exactly the same as the students admitted to the university.
My immediate question though was about the instructor workload. Obviously with more students there will be more interaction for the instructor to engage with. However, the catch is in the last sentence of the announcement: the number of places in each course will be limited, on a first come first serve basis.
This reinforces the notion that open is not an absolute but relative term. Nevertheless this is a model that other public institutions could easily emulate.