University of the People

The University of the People aims to be a truly open university, intended for those that cannot afford a university degree, especially in developing countries. It is not completely free but there is just a single enrolment fee and, soon, small fees for each online exam taken. For those that cannot afford the nominal fees, it links to a marketplace for micro-scholarships and offers some scholarships of its own, and offers a sliding scale of fees depending on where you come from (people from developing countries pay less). Entirely unaccredited so far, with only a couple of undergraduate degree programs, it has a way to go. Its website has an endearingly amateurish feel and the blurb rather vaguely describes a clunky and unimaginative pedagogical model, with online exams that are not going to win it friends or trust. Perhaps the most telling sign that it is not playing in the big league is a very unfortunate turn of phrase that is proudly trumpeted throughout the site, that it is ‘tuition-free’. However, inability to use the English language and dubious pedagogical underpinnings aside, the idea is very worthy, the economic model is interesting and the intentions seem good. An interesting and possibly complementary alternative to the much-hyped mechaMOOC phenomenon (I say ‘mechaMOOC’ because I want to distinguish the new breed of MOOCs coming out of Udacity, Coursera etc from the original connectivist MOOCs that are a very different and much cuddlier kind of animal).

Address of the bookmark:

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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