Blackboards Without Borders: Introducing University of the People

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University of the People (UoP; http://www.UoPeople.org) is the world's first tuition-free, online academic institution, slated to open its virtual doors in April 2009. UoP promises to revolutionize higher education by providing universal access to college studies--even in the poorest parts of the world.

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With a few keystrokes, UoP takes the concept of social networking and applies it to academia, providing a global chalkboard for all students.

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Millions of people never have the chance to attend college because of economic and geographic constraints. With the help of technology and a visionary educator, this is about to change. In April 2009, entrepreneur Shai Reshef is opening the virtual gates to the world's first tuition-free, internet-based academic institution. As a non-profit venture, the University of the People (UoP; http://www.UoPeople.org ) promises to revolutionize higher education by providing universal access to college studies--even in the poorest parts of the world.

"Education, just like democracy, should be a right, not a privilege," said Shai Reshef, Founder and President, University of the People. "With a few keystrokes, UoP takes the concept of social networking and applies it to academia, providing a global chalkboard for all students." Reshef credits open-source technology and increasing access to the Internet in making higher education available to people all over the world.

Long distance learning is a growing trend in the U.S. According to a survey by the Sloan Consortium, approximately 4 million students are enrolled in online education. As a tuition-free service, UoP will take the concept of eLearning to an unprecedentedly broader - worldwide - audience.

UoP will be able to effectively function on a limited budget without sacrificing quality of education by using collaborative and open-source eLearning. UoP will embrace peer-to-peer teaching to make the best use of a student body from around the world. Within online study communities, students will share resources, exchange ideas, discuss weekly topics, submit assignments and take exams. The curriculum will be supported by respected scholars. A community of educators, comprised of active and retired professors, librarians, master level students and other professionals, will participate and oversee the assessment process. They will also develop ongoing procedures for curriculum evaluation and development.

In lieu of tuition, UoP plans to charge nominal application and examination fees ($15-$50 and $10-$100 respectively), which may be adjusted on a sliding scale based on the economic situation in the student's country of origin.

UoP will be open to any student with access to a computer and Internet connection, who can submit a certificate of graduation from secondary school and demonstrate proficiency in English (or pass two preliminary English courses at UoP).

UoP anticipates tens of thousands of students to enroll within the first five years of operation. Although the University will cap enrollment at 300 students in the first semester, the peer-to-peer pedagogical model will encourage rapid expansion of the student body in following years.

Parlaying a successful career in education and worldwide travel, Reshef discovered one issue that unites countries, cities and states around the globe - a need for improved education. His pioneering initiative fulfills a personal desire to give back to society and develop the world through knowledge and academics.

"The University of the People represents a huge leap in the democratization of education by reaching those who until now viewed college as a pipedream," added Reshef. "Education is a proven mechanism for upward mobility. Our goal is to positively impact the life chances of as many people as possible."

In the initial stages, UoP will offer two undergraduate degrees: a BA in Business Administration and a BSc in Computer Science. Fulltime students will be able to complete the undergraduate degree in approximately four years. All students will be eligible for an associate degree after two years. UoP intends to apply for accreditation from recognized authorities as soon as the waiting process for eligibility is met.

About Shai Reshef:

Shai Reshef has twenty years of experience in the international education market. From 1989 to 2005, he served as Chairman of the Kidum Group - the largest for-profit educational services company based in Israel. Reshef joined Kidum in 1989 when it was a single product company with revenues of $100,000. Under his leadership Kidum grew to become a company with annual revenues in excess of $25 million, with over 1,000 employees and 50,000 students a year. In 2005, he sold the company to Kaplan, one of the world's largest education companies and a subsidiary of the Washington Post. Between 2001 and 2004, while continuing as the chairman of Kidum, Reshef lived in the Netherlands where he chaired KIT eLearning, a subsidiary of Kidum. KIT is the eLearning partner of the University of Liverpool and the first online university outside of the U.S. KIT provides MBA and M.Sc. degrees in IT. The company was sold in 2004 to Laureate. In August 2007, after three years in London and New York, Reshef returned to Israel. Currently, Mr. Reshef acts as chairman of the board of Cramster.com, the leading online study community of students, educators and subject enthusiasts. Launched in 2003, Cramster.com is the 21st century answer to the traditional college study group, helping students anywhere, anytime. With over 100,000 active members each month, ranging from gifted 17-year-old high school students to 80-year-old subject enthusiasts, Cramster has the community to support the 24-hour needs of students across the globe.

Reshef holds a BA, magna cum laude, from Tel Aviv University and an MA from the University of Michigan in Chinese Politics.

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