Semester Online FAQ

Semester Online, the first-of-its-kind program to offer for-credit undergraduate courses through a consortium of top-tier universities, announced today that Wake Forest University is joining the consortium and will offer its first course in 2014. In a partnership with 2U, Inc., Semester Online offers rigorous, small, online, for-credit courses in real time, to qualified college students from anywhere in the world.

Wake Forest joins the Semester Online growing roster of nationally renowned colleges and universities including Boston College, Brandeis University, Emory University, Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, and Washington University in St. Louis.

In Spring 2014, Wake Forest will offer its first Semester Online course, Introduction to Bioethics, which will be taught by professor of biology Carole Browne. The course will examine contemporary issues in bioethics, including responsible conduct in research, implications of technological advances in biology, environmental issues, and controversies in health care and medical practices.

Read the full news release here »

Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

What is Semester Online?

Semester Online is a consortium of top colleges and universities developed in collaboration with 2U, Inc. It is the first program of its kind to offer undergraduate students the opportunity to take rigorous, online courses for credit offered by some of the country’s leading universities.

How were faculty included in the decision to join the Semester Online program?

For several years, faculty at Wake Forest have engaged in a series of campus-wide dialogues about how best to use technology tools to enhance the educational experience. More recently, faculty have actively been engaged in discussions about Semester Online. The College’s Committee on Online Education, created by a vote of the faculty last year, recommended bringing Semester Online membership to the College faculty for a vote this fall.  The College faculty voted Sept. 9 to recommend to the administration that Wake Forest join the Semester Online Consortium for an initial two-year engagement.

What does this decision mean?

Wake Forest will join the Semester Online Consortium – which currently includes Boston College, Brandeis University, Emory University, Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame and Washington University of St. Louis.  As part of the consortium we are developing courses for the Semester Online program. The first course, “Introduction to Bioethics,” is scheduled to be taught by professor of biology Carole Browne in the Spring of 2014.

What are the potential benefits for students?

Semester Online will allow students to continue on schedule, taking classes towards a degree while working, traveling or managing personal commitments – from studying abroad to fulfilling family obligations – that, in the past, generally meant putting their studies on hold.  Students will have the opportunity to enroll in compelling classes offered from other consortium schools while staying enrolled in their current school and benefitting from a broadened academic experience.

What are the potential benefits for faculty?

This gives interested faculty an opportunity to learn about new technologies; those who wish to offer a course and are selected by the Consortium’s curriculum committee will engage in an intensive course-preparation effort.  Such an experience offers unique professional development opportunities for faculty and will often help to inform in-class teaching as well.  Faculty also may expand the geographic reach of their courses, including globally.

What are other benefits to Wake Forest?

Consortium membership will provide continued opportunities to engage with peer institutions that are exploring how online tools can potentially enhance the educational experience for undergraduates.

What is Wake Forest’s commitment to Semester Online?

Wake Forest’s commitment is to develop several more high-quality courses and to be an active member of the Consortium: that involves developing and approving courses, curriculum, and other academic matters.  We expect that we will ultimately offer a set of 6 to 8 Semester Online courses.  Wake Forest has a two-year commitment, renewable by mutual agreement.

How is Semester Online different from Coursera or online learning providers? 

Semester Online is different from Coursera and other MOOC offerings because the courses are taught in a way that fit with Wake Forest’s educational model. Class sessions are taught in small groups where students are connected to their peers and guided by distinguished professors, much as they would be on campus.  This program is for credit, charges tuition, has a selective admissions process and also provides classes that are taught live.

What was Wake Forest’s agreement with Semester Online when it first launched in November?  In the early stages, Wake Forest signed a memorandum of understanding to remain part of the conversation with other Semester Online Consortium schools. After several months of learning more about the potential benefits of the program and much discussion with faculty, Wake Forest is now joining the consortium and will offer its first Semester Online Course in 2014.

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