From Beer to History, Univ of Oklahoma’s Janux Platform Educates

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From innovative courses covering beer chemistry to the History Channel, the University of Oklahoma’s Janux learning platform allows learners all over the world to participate in the university’s online courses for free.

According to Senior Vice Provost Kyle Harper, Janux online aims to make access to higher education available to more people.

“The cost of tuition continues to rise, making education less accessible to many students,” said Harper. “OU wants to offer the highest-quality solution possible to students who do not have the time or the money to get the education they want and deserve. Janux has taken resources and expertise at OU and made it available to students anywhere. Already, we have seen engagement from all over the world and witnessed students tapping into course material to achieve personal and professional goals.”

Courses offered cover a variety of topics, including computer science, political science, chemistry, education and even a “Chemistry of Beer” course offered by a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Many of the participants in the beer course are “entrepreneurs who are beginning or already involved in starting their own breweries around the world,” said Harper. “This course in particular has been interesting because it teaches a notoriously difficult subject, organic chemistry. The course has gone viral with nearly 9,000 students globally.”

Another course recently offered, “United States, 1865 to the Present,” was created out of a partnership with the History Channel as a TV-branded online course.

The interactive course will offer students traditional coursework like lectures and discussion groups in addition to multimedia material provided by the History Channel.

The courses are worth a range of credits for OU students.  While the beer course will provide students with one credit, a General Chemistry class is available for five credits.

Courses last for 16 weeks, equal to a full semester.  Some of the courses have a set schedule that allow students and teachers to interact in real time.

Janux is run on a platform by NextThought and built in partnership with OU. While the company owns the platform and is in charge of Janux’s functional development, it works with the university on scope and opportunities.

All content and student data are hosted right through the university’s IT department, with the university’s Center for Teaching Excellence in charge of content curation.  Faculty members use criteria such as learning impact, innovation and technology compatability to decide what will be offered on the platform.

The Janux platform has been released as an iPad app to allow for easy mobile use.  Students can read course materials, watch lectures and other course videos, and even complete practice questions.  New plans for the app include writing notes, discussion forums, and the ability to hand in course assignments.

Janux featured almost 20,000 users across 90 countries within its first six months.  In all, the platform has been host to about 20 courses which university students can take for credit and the public can participate in, but not receive credit for.

According to Harper, Janux provides free, educational, open content in conjunction with the public mission of the university.  In addition, “This is also an important opportunity to showcase the [university] around the world as a leader in technology, learning, academic excellence and community.”