CHAPEL HILL- Beginning next academic year, UNC will take online-based education to the next level—and the effort will also continue the university’s goal to maintain affordability.

Vice Provost For Academic Initiatives Carol Tresolini says the university will start offering Massive Open Online Courses, otherwise known as MOOCS, to students all around the world, free of charge.

“There are no financial barriers, in other words, for people to be able to access these courses,” she says. “So, that’s important to us, in terms of being able to extend our intellectual resources.”

The MOOCS will be open to all different kinds of learners, whether they’re affiliated with UNC or not—from high school students to those pursuing graduate degrees. Course participants don’t have to already be enrolled in an academic program.  The classes will include a wide variety of subject areas, including public health, information science, and fine arts.

For several years, UNC has had several online based courses; the MOOCS will be different because they don’t carry any academic credit, Even so, Tresolini says they’ll help the university continue to develop its programs that are credit-bearing.

“We think we’ll learn some new techniques and learn about some new things we can incorporate in our degree and credit-baring programs,” she says. “Not just the distance programs, but also our on-campus courses.”

And Tresolini says the MOOCS have also made administrators stop and think about the structure of higher education—a hot topic throughout the entire country.

“The lines are beginning to blur,” she says. “We’re using technology in a lot of ways now in our on-campus courses to help improve learning outcomes, teaching effectiveness and so on,” she says. “It’s not an either-or anymore.”

Ten faculty members have submitted proposals for teaching MOOCS; so far, Tresolini says four of them have been approved.