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EPFL offers free online education with Coursera
Aerial view of Lausanne’s Federal Institute of Technology - EPFL (Photo: Alain Herzog)

EPFL offers free online education with Coursera

Published: 23 Jul 2012 11:13 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Jul 2012 11:13 GMT+02:00

Lausanne’s Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) has become the first Swiss university to offer courses on an online learning platform that promises to revolutionize higher education.

EPFL is among 12 leading universities in Europe and the US to join Coursera, an internet platform created by two Stanford University academics.

Coursera offers free online access to courses offered by professors from 16 elite universities, such as Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley.

The courses do not provide credits toward degrees at the participating schools but instructors offer signed certificates to students who complete the studies.

A total of 111 courses are currently offered by Coursera in disciplines that range from computer science to humanities and social sciences.

“This is the future, and we must be part of it,” Martin Vetterli, dean of EPFL’s School of Computer and Communications Sciences, said in a statement issued on the institute’s website.

The “massive open online courses” or MOOCs are unique in that they can be taken by anyone in the world with no limit to the number of students enrolled.

EPFL is climbing onto the Coursera bandwagon with other institutions such as the University of Edinburgh, Duke, Johns Hopkins and the University of Toronto.

The Lausanne school is offering three computer science courses, including the first one to be offered on Coursera in French.

Professor Martin Odersky has designed a seven-week course for computer programming in the Scala language that begins on September 18th.

Students for this particular course are required to have previous knowledge of computer programming.

But other courses, such as one offered in French in introductory computer programming can be taken by beginners.

The name of the instructor and the date for the start of that eight-week course have yet to be announced.

The other EPFL computer science course, on “digital signal processing” starts in February next year.

“I have a feeling that (these kind of courses) will be a kind of tsunami in the academic world,” Vetterli said.

“We don’t know what the consequences will be yet, but it was important for us to participate from the beginning, rather than risk missing the boat!”

It is not clear how Coursera operates financially since its business model is a guarded secret.

But while courses are offered for free, students enrolled are required to pay for certificates granted upon successful completion of studies, with revenue shared to participating universities.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

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