Two British universities are leading a Pounds 2 million European initiative to put degree-level courses on the Internet, writes Simon Targett.
Distance learning specialist The Open University, together with Sunderland University, are adapting undergraduate courses for reproduction on the World Wide Web as well as the FirstClass computer conferencing system. Funded by the European Union, it will be used by students stranded in remote areas, but also homebound students, the elderly and the physically handicapped.
The so-called Cafe Mondiale project will be launched next week in Athens. Other European nations involved in the scheme include Greece, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. In the trial, expected to last three years, courses will be available in health care studies and renewable energy science. Likely consumers will be located across Europe. Networked sites will be equipped with multimedia PCs, and computer and video conferencing facilities.
The Open University already has an established student base in Europe. Business courses are particularly popular across former Iron Curtain countries, with some 11,000 studying the business diploma. Michael Furminger, deputy project manager at The Open University, said: "This new project will be a taster, a sort of door-opener, giving people an idea of the courses the OU offers. Hopefully, some will stay with us, and complete full degree courses."