UC Irvine’s free online course program was nationally recognized last week for its growing popularity, particularly at a time when traditional university classes are becoming too expensive for some.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal cited the recent 27-percent upsurge in a UCI-sponsored online financial planning course, which is offered through a Web-based platform called OpenCourseWare (OCW).
About 250 universities worldwide currently offer courses through this program. In the fall of 2006, UCI became the first university in the UC system to join the OCW Consortium. UC Berkeley later followed in 2007.
Since 2006, the site has attracted over 250,000 visitors, with over 35 percent of them being international. There are no registration requirements; all that is required is an Internet connection.
“UCI OpenCourseWare is a large-scale, Web-based resource that houses educational assets,” said Gary W. Matkin, dean of Continuing Education at UCI. “[UCI]’s membership in the consortium is consistent with its public and land-grant missions and its desire to play a significant role in contributing to the social welfare of the state, the nation and the world.”
UCI offers 20 online courses through OCW, ranging from high school subjects to business analysis classes. The course that has received the most traffic is entitled “Fundamentals of Financial Planning.” It is designed to teach the general public basic financial planning strategies.
“Whether consumers intend to do their own financial planning or just need basic information before meeting with a professional, the program provides a greater understanding of financial options,” Matkin said.
The course features lecture material, worksheets and links to financial planning resources.
UCI’s Extension Office is attempting to expand the range of courses offered through OCW.
“We would really like to include many courses on the site from UCI faculty,” Matkin said.
Thus far, two such courses are offered. One of them is entitled “White-Collar and Corporate Crime,” and is taught by Professor Henry Pontell of UCI’s Social Ecology Department. For now, this particular course is only offered to students in UCI’s Master’s Degree Program in Criminology, Law and Society.
“They generally enjoy it very much and find it extremely useful,” Pontell said.
Pontell suspects that the online format of the course may attract students who want to ride out the turbulent economy in a graduate school.
“It’s too early to tell,” Pontell said, “but the folk wisdom is that whenever the economy tanks and jobs disappear, people tend to [go] back to school. This program would be an excellent venue for those seeking a master’s degree in that it combines the high quality of a University of California degree, an opportunity to interact with our faculty and a highly flexible and convenient format.”
Professors like Pontell continue to help bolster UCI’s reputation as a leader in the field of public information. Last October, UCI was named one of the top 10 providers of free online courses.
“As part of our mission as a public university,” Matkin said, “it is important to provide educational pathways, which cater to the needs of learners. We are proud to be the first to offer an educational financial planning resource of this caliber, free to the public.”
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