Tuition-free education | University of the People

More than two years since its formation, the online University of the People has attracted 800 students from over 100 countries, a team of top academic advisers, and growing support worldwide.

A non-profit organization, University of the People is the world´s first tuition-free online academic institution dedicated to the global advancement and democratization of higher education. The global pedagogical model embraces the worldwide presence of the Internet and technology to provide universal access to education in the most remote places by offering its programs through distance learning and by making this opportunity affordable. According to Shai Reshef, an Israeli entrepreneur and founder of the online university, most of the students come from developing countries and without the means to pay for college.

A part from being tuition-free, the university is also a great opportunity for students who want to learn and work at the same time, in order to apply the educational experience in a practical way. Excerpt from an article by Alison Damast of the Bloomberg Businessweek:

The school’s unaccredited status does not appear to be a stumbling block for students like Deema Sultan, 27, who lives in Syria and was among the first cohort of students to matriculate at the University of the People this fall. She came across the school through a news story run on a Syrian Web site last summer and immediately became intrigued. “I thought, “Oh, this is a great idea, but I doubt it is true,”” says Sultan.

Her doubts were assuaged when she found the school’s Web site and saw that she met the eligibility requirements. Now in her second semester, she is pursuing a business administration track. When not in school, she helps run her family’s textile business. She hopes her education will help the business grow and help her become a more astute entrepreneur.

“This is a great opportunity for me because, even though I’m working, I could not afford to study in Syria or the U.S.,” says Sultan, who takes classes from a computer in her parent’s home or at Internet cafés, when the family’s connection is down. “I’m very impressed by it so far and the level of education they are offering. I’ve been telling my friends all about it.
(Extract of an article by Alison Damast / Bloombeg Businessweek)

The University of the People courses use open-source curriculum that is available to the public at no cost, as well as learning by teaching and peer-to-peer teaching methodology. Within online study communities, students cover readings, share resources, exchange ideas and discuss assigned questions. Distinguished scholars, professors, librarians, master level students and other professionals, among them many volunteers, participate in and oversee the assessment process,

The school year length is five semesters, each lasting ten weeks. In order to enhance the peer-based collaborative learning, each student is placed in a class of 15 to 20 students and given free access to online materials and social networking tools. Rather than a physical space, the school is using an open digital platform – a software working as an open-source e-learning platform called Moodle, delivering lectures, reading material, homework assignments as well as online calender, discussion forum and announcements.
Each class is overseen by an instructor, though since the teaching is based on a peer-to-peer method, students are learning by interacting with their peers, posting and responding to questions on lesson or reading in their online classrooms. Whenever help is needed, students can contact the online volunteer community composed of university professors, graduate students, retired academics and computer specialists.

For the time being, University of the people offers four undergraduate degrees : Associate and Bachelor degrees in Business Administration, as well as Associate and Bachelor degrees in Computer Science.

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