University of the People – The First School Comprised of Open Online Courses

The University of the People was the brain child of Israeli entrepreneur Shai Reshef, who has based the online school on the mantra that “education should be a right, not a privilege.”  Already celebrating its one-year university, the school has led the way in a revolutionary aspect of the term “open online courses”, essentially offering students around the globe a chance to earn a free degree (with minimal enrollment and testing fees). 

Despite its already heavily criticism by educators, the program has received an influx of students around the globe and has offered much lower rates for students from poorer nations who do not have the same chances as students from more Western nations around the globe.  Drawing his ideas from the boom in social networking, the online college offers students the same opportunity as many students in Western nations receive, despite the fact that the school is based out of Israel.  However, the school is based on an English background, indicating that most students need to have a basic understanding of the language.

However, Reshef’s innovation is still one of the most revolutionary advances in education of the time.  Many traditional schools in third-world nations are nearly exclusively private, and without an education requirement, more and more young adults are slipping further off the road to education.  However, online colleges have opened up a new potential realm for them, as long as there is an open library or internet café near their town.  Open online courses initially began with classes from prestigious American schools like MIT and Stanford, but have slowly progressed to include a wide array of classes from around the world.

Open courses typically allow students to gain knowledge that they would otherwise have to attend a full course to earn, or at least pay for the cost of.  The University of the People requires a small enrollment fee and an English proficiency entrance exam, but other than that, is open to students of any race, from any country.  While studies have yet to be performed to indicate whether the school is a lasting endeavor (it is one of the only non-profit online schools), educators have criticized the process due to its lack of payment for scholarly faculty.  These educators contend that without the for-profit status that most online schools maintain, the school will fail despite its best efforts.

Thus far, however, the school has opened up a new world for many hopeful students around the country who have dreamed of the chance to earn a free education, and thanks to Mr. Reshef, one such school has answered their dreams. 


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