NORMAN — A new University of Oklahoma program designed to expand the university's reach into Web-based content debuts Tuesday when OU launches freedom.ou.edu.
The website will offer free video lectures on topics dealing with American government and constitutional law, produced through the university's Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage.
The lectures will be available to the general public, free of charge, said Adam Croom, the project's manager. Croom said he hopes to see the lectures be used in American history and civics classrooms.
The courses differ from another model of online, noncredit courses that has received attention recently. Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, have grown in popularity since Stanford University pioneered the concept last year. In those courses, students must sign up to take a class, which may include discussion forums, quizzes and team projects.
For now, Croom said, OU's offerings are limited to openly available online lectures that last about 15 minutes and won't require the user to sign up. Project leaders are considering the idea of creating longer lectures in the future that might come as a part of a lengthier series on a single subject, he said.
Modeled after conference
Croom said the idea for the project came earlier this year, after the university hosted TEDxOU, an independent conference sponsored by TED, a nonprofit organization that holds similar talks each year in Long Beach, Calif., and Palm Springs, Calif.
That event featured speakers who gave lectures that were limited to 18 minutes. Croom, who curated the event, said that style of short, high-impact lecture lends itself well to online media.
Kyle Harper, director of the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage, said the site will help the institute fulfill its public outreach role.
OU President David Boren established the institute in 2009. Since then, the institute has created about 30 courses in subjects related to American government, Harper said. He recently gave a presentation about the institute at an OU Alumni Association event in Dallas, and several people in attendance said they were sorry the institute didn't exist when they were in school.
The site offers a way for the institute to reach those people, he said. Universities tend to deliver a different kind of content than other media, such as television, he said, and many alumni and other Oklahomans are interested in that kind of content.
“I'm thinking of this as a kind of extended campus,” he said. “There's a demand for this. People are eager to continue learning.”