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Brandeis University joins e-learning consortium

Brandeis University is joining a consortium with nine other institutions to roll out a new online education programme next year.

The e-learning - entitled Semester Online - is planning to offer undergraduates a series of digital courses taken from each of the facilities involved.

Due to come into effect in autumn 2013, the initiative will become available to all students attending the establishments, which include the University of North Carolina, Wake Forest University, Emory University and Washington University in St Louis.

Brandeis' provost Steve Goldstein said the announcement is an exciting step forward for both the faculties involved and higher education in general.

He added: "This consortium will expand opportunities for students everywhere and will help us all gain experience and understanding of the broad potential of distance learning."

To begin with, Semester Online plans to include the same educational content as most of its brick-and-mortar counterparts, but extra courses designed especially for online users are expected to follow.

The platform will feature a virtual classroom for student participation in discussions and exercises, while lectures - which are delivered through a digital channel - will aim to recreate the on-campus experience as accurately as possible.

Professors and other educators are also in line to receive benefits from the online learning, as all participating teachers will have the chance to engage with talented students nationwide.

According to Ed Macias, provost and executive vice-chancellor for academic affairs at Washington University, digital education is undoubtedly an "important and impactful" extension of classroom teaching.

"The challenge has been developing a web-based programme that mirrors the richness and robustness of the in-classroom experience and applies credit towards earning a degree," he continued.

Students are also to have access to live class sessions, self-paced course materials and a new social network allowing them to develop relationships with coursemates via the internet.

16 November 2012

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