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September 20, 2013

Purdue NExT online learning program set to debut

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Registration is opening this fall for Purdue NExT, an online program that emphasizes interactive learning for advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate-level courses.

The five-week, non-degree courses taught by Purdue faculty are currently being offered to undergraduate and graduate students, and will be marketed to professionals, businesses looking to improve skill levels of employees and higher education institutions that wish to supplement their degree programs and curricula.

"Purdue NExT will enable students to gain exclusive access to courses taught by world-class faculty that focus on applied professional development across several areas of Purdue expertise," said Timothy Sands, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at Purdue. "The concept for Purdue NExT grew out of a successful 2011 experiment at Purdue in modular, online, not-for-credit courses through nanoHUB-U. Unlike MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses, the first nanoHUB-U courses were not free, but were priced at a level conducive to use as an embedded supplement to courses offered for credit at a host institution. Purdue NExT builds off this format and expands the offerings to the full range of Purdue's strengths, including science, technology, engineering, business, pharmacy and communications."

Sands said Purdue NExT will not offer degrees or Purdue credits but rather modular, online courses that focus on a core skill vital to continued success in a specific field of study or industry.

Purdue NExT courses, which are available this fall, can be taken as a standalone course, as part of a series or as a supplementary experience embedded in an existing credit-bearing course. Students will view video lectures, interact with simulation and computational tools, and take quizzes at their own convenience, but homework assignments, exams and discussion forums will be on a schedule that is fixed by the host institution.

Purdue NExT courses – either as not-for-credit standalone modules or as embedded modules in credit-bearing, on-campus courses – will be free for students enrolled at Purdue's West Lafayette campus. Future plans also include developing sustainable partnerships with regional campuses and with Purdue alumni groups to offer the content available widely across the Purdue network. Initial courses offered to Purdue West Lafayette students this fall are in business systems, chemical engineering, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, liberal arts and mechanical engineering.

The courses will be built in Purdue's HUBzero environment, a research and education platform for science and engineering communities that offers cloud-based computing resources.

Ananth Iyer, faculty director of Purdue NExT, said the courses emphasize interactive, experiential learning.

"Purdue NExT courses will offer deeper learning experiences by incorporating simulation, visualization and graphics," he said. "The technology enables this advanced online learning and allows tailoring of the lecture experience to the individual student's needs."

Iyer said the tools being used vary with the specific course, but range from circuit simulations, to lean supply chain exercises, to optimization tools, to physical simulations to virtual clean rooms. He said access to large datasets to drive these models will enable students to learn while immersed in real-world scenarios using numerical, sound and video data.

"Purdue NExT represents the next generation of technology-enhanced teaching and learning, going beyond video lectures to take full advantage of the digital learning environment," said Steve Dunlop, managing director of Purdue NExT. "This approach teaches students how to master specific marketable skills that they can immediately apply to their fields of study or profession."

When students successfully complete courses they earn digital badges that are tied to the Mozilla Open Badge program and makes use of Purdue's Passport badge technology. In some cases, these badges can be translated into continuing education credits and applied toward professional certifications.

The courses will be marketed globally in late fall to individuals, business and industry and other higher education institutions by Deltak, a Wiley brand, on behalf of Purdue.

"In the past few years, there has been such a big increase in the number of people pursuing higher education around the world that many countries can't find enough qualified faculty, particularly for upper-level engineering, science and technology courses," Iyer said. "This program can help international students learn some of those skills."

For more information, visit http://www.purdue.edu/purduenext  

Writer: Greg McClure, 765-496-9711, gmcclure@purdue.edu  

Sources: Steve Dunlop, 765-494-7800, dunlops@purdue.edu 

Timothy Sands, 765-494-9709, tsands@purdue.edu 

Ananth Iyer, 765-494-4514, aiyer@purdue.edu