The University of Illinois plans to offer seven free online classes this fall.
The university is teaming up with an online education company called Coursera. The Urbana-Champaign campus is joining schools such as Princeton, Stanford and the University of Michigan, who already have partnerships with Coursera.
Chancellor Phyllis Wise says the U of I is the only land-grant university on the list and that means Illinois has expertise in areas that other schools don't.
The courses beginning this fall will include organic chemistry and microeconomics. Others inlcude Creative, Serious and Playful Science of Android Apps, Heterogeneous Parallel Programming, Introduction to Sustainability, Planet Earth, and VLSI CAD: Logic to Layout. They won't count toward a degree.
Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng says the courses his company hosts are free, but universities may get some revenue from charging students $30 to $80 for a certificate showing they completed a course. The university also could reap revenue by selling the names of high-achieving students who agree to share that information with would-be employers, Ng said.
The Coursera agreement isn't the university's first foray into online education.
In 2008, the university launched its Global Campus virtual university with a bachelor's degree-completion program for registered nurses and graduate programs in education. The school scrapped the initiative after disappointing enrollment.
Nicholas Burbules, a U of I education professor who worked on the faculty group reviewing the issues associated with the Coursera agreement, said some questions remain unanswered, including whether faculty will develop the classes as part of their regular teaching duties.
Coursera has 680,000 students from 190 countries and more than 1.55 million course enrollments, according to Daphne Koller, a co-founder of the company.
More information can be found by searching University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under Course Explorer on the Coursera website -