News Local/State

32,000 Enroll in University of Illinois Online Courses


A program that offers online courses at the University of Illinois has attracted nearly 32,000 students from around the world.

The students are taking the classes through an online learning platform called Coursera. The courses don’t count toward a degree, but the university may get some revenue from charging students for a certificate showing they completed a course.

U of I President Robert Easter said he is interested in looking closer at this set up to see how it can evolve and benefit the university and the students.

“I think in all of these things, we want to be responsive to the public, but we have to have a functional business model,” Easter said. "We will engage with our faculty, and engage with the individuals who are interested in this kind of material, and come to some sense of what the appropriate model is."

The university is offering seven free online classes this fall. The first class is "Introduction to Sustainability'' in the university's School of Earth, Society and Environment.

Professor Jonathan Tomkin said sending an email to thousands of students can be nerve-wracking. Tomkin said he is volunteering to teach the class "as an experiment."

The Urbana-Champaign campus joins Princeton, Stanford, the University of Michigan and other schools offering online classes through Coursera.

Meanwhile, the U of I said enrollment on all three campuses has reached all-time highs over the last several years.

The state currently owes the university $325 million in unpaid state vouchers. As the university looks at controlling expenses, freshmen are paying more for in-state tuition.