University of People

Reading my peers’ blogs, I was surprised that I was not the only one having a hard time finding the right topic for this week’s blog. I am still not sure if I found the right one, but I found something that raised my interest and made me do some research.

Feeling lost, I typed in TED talk – online learning and I came across a 2014 presentation done by Shai Reshef, founder of an online university, named University of People.

What I liked about this TED talk was that it pointed out the benefits of online learning being a lot more affordable, and accessible. To make it accessible to students who don’t have broadband, this university created a low-tech online program using open-source. Students can access the text-based materials and respond to them asynchronously. There are also optional video lectures and links to online videos. The benefit of this online program is that students can study at their own pace completing an assessment at the end of each week. There is also a peer-to-peer system included, where they provide each other with feedback. Students view this as a great support system, with the opportunity to learn from each other. The university also assigns students to a personal adviser to help them be successful. Teachers can be reached through email and having only 20 students per class makes it possible to provide individual support.

After reading a few reviews and articles about the university, I came across a number of pros and cons:  The first issue that was brought up was that this university has national and not regional accreditation which can cause problems later on when looking for jobs. Another major con was that this university is advertised as a tuition-free university, but there is registration fee and assessment fee that students pay before taking their exams. The advantages of this fairly small online university are that they offer three undergrad and a master’s program taught by professors from different universities, who have expertise in teaching university level classes. Having the opportunity to access this program from anywhere in the world while studying in English is also a major benefit, with English becoming lingua franca.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find information if the credits can be transferred and how a degree from the University of People is viewed by employers. Since there is no demo class, I guess one has to give this program a try to see if they like it or not. 

I don’t know how prestigious this online university is and it is not my job to decide, but going back in time, in the small town in Eastern Europe, having an online option for further studies in English would have steered my life in a different direction. After graduating from high school, I ended up going to a renowned university in the capital city and passing the entrance exam, I was able to study for free, meaning there was no tuition. But this university life was far from being free. The special library passes, the materials, and living in a different city far from family made it both financially and emotionally draining. Experiencing different ways of teaching and learning, I would have preferred online courses, with the possibility to listen to the material several times if needed, to be able to acquire the material more profoundly from the comfort of my home. But the real surprise was when I realized that my degree from this prestigious, accredited university was not accepted in Canada and my four years in education program needed an extra three and a half years of full time studying in my new country in order to be able to teach.

What I found out over the years while moving from one country to another is that transferring credits can be tricky. Since studying takes a lot of effort, I feel one should always try to find the right fit. Both deciding on a face-to-face or online course/program can be overwhelming. Taking the time to do research to find the most valuable courses for ourselves is crucial. At the end of the day it all comes down to one’s needs when considering further studies.

Thank you for reading my blog!

12 thoughts on “University of People

  1. I was one of your peers that was struggling to find a topic! I was interested in the topic you chose and learning more about this school – not going to lie, that 20 person class size sounds pretty great! I really clung to the point you brought up near the end of your post regarding how tricky transfer credits can be if you’re moving around a lot! I haven’t had much experience with this, but the little that I had was a nightmare! I think valuing our education and choosing the best route for yourself is so important. Regardless of whether blended or online learning is trendy or popular right now, if good old fashion face-to-face education is a better fit for you – go for it! I feel like people would get so much more from their schooling if they went with what is best suited for their learning style. 🙂 Thanks for your post.

    • Hi Dani,

      Thank you for your comment! I agree with you about needing to find the best fit for ourselves! 🙂 Unfortunately sometimes depending where we live in this world, we might not have a chance to find or afford the right fit.
      Melinda 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences of secondary education in another country. I often forget the challenges that international students face when studying so far from the comforts of friends and family. I am a huge advocate for online education but I totally agree that decisions regarding education programs require much thought and consideration. The time, effort and money involved are all very valuable. Great post.

  3. I think this is an incredible opportunity for so many people. The optimist in me believes that making a low cost/low tech course open source will allow an opportunity to people that would otherwise never be able to pursue post secondary education. The pessimist in me can’t help but think about the rule of supply and demand… if we flood the market with low cost degrees, will they lose their meaning? Will graduate degrees be the new benchmark for education? There is a really neat video talking about this, Whatever the long term effects are, I think the idea is wonderful.

    • Hi Brad,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Very interesting point. The pessimist in me fears that people go through a program like this with high hopes and at the end their degree would not be accepted or accredited by employers. That could be viewed as both time and money waisted. I watched the TED talk. Thank you so much! I found it very interesting and so true.

      Melinda 🙂

  4. Hi Melinda! This University of People sounds very interesting, but like you said, I wonder how recognized it is by employers. This is a great idea and like you said as well, very accessible to anyone who is interested in an experience that is less expensive and more engaging in the online community. Do you think this is the future of education? Will we move to this model as a modification to other higher forms of education? Thank you for sharing your experience with this idea!

    • Hi Shelby,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Interesting question regarding online learning becoming the future of education. The majority of students having to work to be able to pay for their tuition would definitely take the option of online learning. At the Master’s level, many people having full time jobs and families, attending a face-to-face class requires wonderful juggling skills with a great support system.I think that online learning is more accessible to our modern society.

      Thank you,

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