The day free online courses at the University of Illinois opened for registration, the school says it received thousands of enrollment requests.
“Overnight, we have [thousands of] students interested in the University of Illinois courses, the most esoteric of which I don’t understand the title,” Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus, told university trustees at their meeting today, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The university promised to offer 10 classes eventually, but had seven available when it launched this week, including Elementary Organic Chemistry, Microeconomics Principles and, the most popular option, "Creative, Serious and Playful Science of Android Apps."
The Illinois university, which has campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield is one of 12 colleges to announce a partnership Tuesday with Coursera, a company that organizes online classes from top universities across the country.
Launched last April with initial partners Stanford University, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University, Coursera offers 125 courses that span all genres of humanities, math and quantitative sciences, social sciences, and more.
"Technology is transforming education," Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng told The Huffington Post. He said that rising unemployment rates are prompting a growing interest in higher education, even among recent college grads, who may be looking to beef up their resumés in the face of a bleak hiring landscape.
The U of I classes won't count towards a degree, but for $30 to $80, students can get a certificate showing they completed a course, according the Daily Herald.
That's likely the only revenue the university can expect from the partnership, but the exuberant reaction of prospective students is nothing to scoff at: a previous foray into online degree-completion programs in 2008 was scrapped after disappointing enrollment, according to the ABC Chicago.