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Expanded Access to Vanderbilt through Online Learning

Posted by on Friday, September 21, 2012 in Academic Life, General Information, Registering for Classes.

Vanderbilt has long been a leader in research and higher education, which is why it attracts some of the best minds from around the world to teach and learn on its disarmingly lovely campus. For well over a century, students have then taken their new perspectives, knowledge, and skills back out into the world, making significant impacts in Vanderbilt’s backyard and all the way to the far corners of the globe. But for the most part, the unifying theme has been that – aside from internships and study abroad programs – this process of learning and engagement happens within the university’s 330-acres in midtown Nashville.

An announcement made yesterday, however, will greatly enhance this approach. Vanderbilt has partnered with the company Coursera to offer free online courses taught by university faculty, an endeavor that could potentially transmit the school’s distinctive brand of education to anyone with an internet connection and a thirst for learning. The move follows an intensive study completed by the Committee on Social Media and the Internet, which was convened by Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos to investigate new online tools available to educators and how they might be best put to use to enhance Vanderbilt’s mission at home and abroad.

It should be noted that Vanderbilt’s foray into online learning is neither new (the School of Nursing and School of Medicine have offered distance learning options for over a decade) nor intended as a replacement of the “traditional” college experience. But it certainly is an enhancement. Jay Clayton, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English and director of The Curb Center at Vanderbilt, articulates this dynamic perfectly:

“At Vanderbilt, we have the luxury of teaching extraordinary students in small classes and of working in close collaboration with undergraduates, graduate students, and other faculty. We will never give up that advantage—it’s what makes Vanderbilt distinctive—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for innovative ways to use new media to enrich on-campus community. Coursera gives us something more: the opportunity to reach out to a global audience and stimulate fresh thinking, share cutting-edge ideas, and provide new knowledge to people who will never have the chance to come study at Vanderbilt in person.”

The five initial online courses will be available starting spring 2013. Learn more in the VUCast below and by visiting the new Digital Learning site.

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