Online courses double

Students, prospective Yalies and members outside the Yale community can now enjoy twice as many of the University’s most popular courses without actually attending them in person.

Nearly one year after its launch, Yale’s Open Yale Courses Program — which makes some of the University’s most popular lectures available to anyone with Internet access — has doubled the number of courses it offers from seven to 15. First announced in fall 2006, the program allows users to download and stream video and audio recordings and written transcripts of each lecture, along with syllabi, reading assignments, problem sets and other assigned materials that accompany the courses.

The eight new classes include Frontiers of Biomedical Engineering, with engineering professor W. Mark Saltzman; Game Theory, with economics professor Benjamin Polak; Financial Markets, with economics professor Robert Shiller; Milton, with English professor John Rogers; The American Novel Since 1945, with English professor Amy Hungerford; The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, with history professor David Blight; Introduction to Ancient Greek History, with classics professor Donald Kagan; and France Since 1871, with history professor John Merriman.

The program is one of the first of its kind among universities.

Hungerford said the filming of her class was not disruptive at all and that her teaching style benefited from it.

“At first [the taping] made me more self-conscious, but soon I forgot it was there,” she said in an e-mail. “Since my lectures on the old syllabus are now available, I feel free to add different elements to the course, knowing that if students want to read and study more on their own, my lectures will be there to help them.”

The Open Courses Web site is one of Yale’s most popular, with half a million unique visitors from 187 countries last year, according to a news release.

The University is putting an emphasis on using new technology to allow members outside the Yale community to access the Yale classroom experience, Yale President Richard Levin said in the release.

The initiative has also had some unexpected effects.

Of the dozen interviewed members of the class of 2012, the first group of applicants able to use the program, many said they used the Web site to experience Yale classes before they applied.

Christopher Luu ’12, from Monterey Park, Calif., said that the program showed him what the academic environment was like at Yale, since he was not able to visit before applying.

“It gave me an accurate sense of how classes were at Yale before going there,” said Luu, who watched Fundamentals of Physics with physics professor Ramamurti Shankar and Introduction to Psychology with psychology professor Paul Bloom.

In its first year, the Open Yale Courses program offered seven courses to the public, including Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics, with astronomy professor Charles Bailyn; Death, with philosophy professor Shelly Kagan; and Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), with religious studies professor Christine Hayes.

The Web site can be accessed at oyc.yale.edu.

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