Credit to NTU for its online courses

Credit to NTU for its online courses
Students at Nanyang Technological University studying for their exams.

SINGAPORE - Nanyang Technological University's (NTU's) bold move to allow its students to earn credits through online courses is off to a promising start, and it is planning to expand the scheme which will give students the option of skipping a semester and graduating earlier.

Since February, about 1,200 of its undergraduates have completed two courses taught by their university professors on the popular massive open online course (Mooc) platform, Coursera.

Students who complete a course stand to earn three credits - the equivalent of an elective module in NTU's undergraduate programme.

The first course - An Exploration of Symmetry - had 25,500 participants worldwide.

Of the 1,800 Singapore participants, about 400 were NTU students who were awarded credits for completing the course.

The second - Introduction to Forensic Science - was taught by Professor Roderick Bates and drew 53,000 participants worldwide, including 3,700 from Singapore.

About 800 NTU students successfully completed the course which offered a peek into how investigators analyse crime scene evidence.

To earn the full three credits, students also have to sit a pen and paper test, which will be held later this month.

The two courses were run on Coursera's "signature" track.

This lets students use webcams to show they are the ones doing the work. Also, at the start of the course, a student's unique typing pattern is captured.

Professor Kam Chan Hin, NTU's associate provost in charge of undergraduate education, said he was encouraged by the participation and completion rates.

He noted the positive comments from participants and said Moocs are a good way to showcase the university's offerings and top-notch faculty.

More of the university's professors will be offering their courses on Coursera, he revealed. While not all will offer credits, he expects more credit-bearing courses to be launched.

In a few years, he said, NTU students will have the choice of studying up to five of their elective modules online. That means they can save up to a semester and graduate earlier. "We hope they will use the time saved to take another course or go on work or research attachments," said Prof Kam.

NTU has two such courses in the pipeline for next year.

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