U.N. announces first free e-university

May 20, 2009 at 5:57 PM

UNITED NATIONS, May 20 (UPI) -- The first-ever, tuition-free online university opened its virtual doors to a worldwide student population, the United Nations said from its New York offices.

The U.N. Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technology and Development, as part of its focus on education this year, showed off the University of the People, the United Nations said Tuesday in a news release.

"This year the Global Alliance has focused its attention on education (and) how ICT can advance education goals around the world," a spokesperson for the U.N. agency said during a news conference.

Shai Reshef, founder of the University of the People, said the online university is geared to students who are constrained by finances, the lack of institutions in their region or unable to leave home to study at a university.

Reshef said University of the People uses open-source technology, open course materials, e-learning methods and peer-to-peer teaching. Class size is limited to 20 students, who can log one for a weekly lecture, conduct discussions with peers and take tests.

Students are charged a $15 to $50 admission fee, depending on their country of origin, and a test processing fee, ranging from $10 to $100.

About 200 students from 52 countries were admitted to the university just through word-of-mouth, the organization said. Entry requirements are a high school diploma and a sufficient knowledge of English.

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