Education

Free online college courses now an option for refugees

Posted June 23

For the first time ever, refugees around the world can receive a free online education for their first two years of college.

Coursera, an online education platform, partners with top universities and organizations worldwide for courses that are available to anyone. "Today the State Department will announce a partnership with online education platform Coursera that allows refugees around the world to take thousands of online courses for free," Quartz reported on Monday.

The Coursera section for refugees explains that nonprofit organizations that support refugees will be able to apply for fully funded access to the course catalog for refugees at a lower cost. Additionally, refugees receive guaranteed financial aid for the courses. "All interested students have to do to qualify is provide proof they have refugee status or have applied for it," according to the Huffington Post.

Coursera's approach emphasizes four key ideas, including the effectiveness of online learning, mastery learning, peer assessments and blended learning.

First-year students are offered general preparation courses and then the next year students may choose specific classes in five areas of interest, including business, computer science and engineering. Third-year students then transfer to a partner university to complete their degree on campus.

"Only at that point will students be required to have their legal documents and school certificates in order. Refugees often don’t have immediate access to these documents, which serves as an obstacle to registering at traditional universities," the Huffington Post reported.

According to the American Public University, once a student has successfully completed a Coursera course along with the completion of a final exam, they may apply for admission at a university and request credit for the course. There are several courses approved by the American Council of Education for college credit, including calculus, bioelectricity and computer science.

According to the International Business Times, five organizations have already been approved for financial aid, including the U.S. Department of State, Samaschool, Libraries Without Borders, Blue Rose Compass and the Institute of International Education. These groups primarily focus on refugees in Kenya, Jordan, Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Our mission is to transform lives by providing access to the world’s best education,” Lila Ibrahim, the chief operations officer at Coursera, said in a press release quoted by the IBT. “We know that one of the best ways to reach the people who need education opportunities the most is by working with organizations that understand the local needs. We’re excited to partner with these organizations, including the State Department, to provide refugees with comprehensive support as they take Coursera courses — at no cost — on anything from English to Python programming.”

According to Quartz, the world migrant crisis is intensifying and employment is becoming harder to find. Coursera was created to help refugees by offering "important skills that will help them in the global economy," Evan Ryan, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, told Quartz.

The program does have a few flaws, according to Quartz. While most of the Coursera courses offered are taught in English, language translations can be a huge barrier despite Coursera's plan to add subtitles. Also, some question the effectiveness of online learning for both refugees and average learners.

Email: mmcnulty@deseretnews.com

Twitter: megchristine5

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