Free online courses at UT start today

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AUSTIN – There’s a class that starts Tuesday at the University of Texas that has more than 18,000 students enrolled.

One reason for the huge enrollment is it’s free and offered online.  It’s called Jazz Appreciation.

This idea of a virtual classroom, with top professors from the nations leading universities, is a concept that has been growing within the academy the last few years.

This year UT joined schools like Harvard, MIT, and Cornell in offering these free online classes through EdX, a non-profit online initiative started by Harvard and MIT where students do not receive college credit but do have an opportunity to learn a whole lot.

“It’s like no other musical genre,” said Professor Jeff Hellmer, Director Jazz Studies, University of Texas.

Professor Jeff Hellmer has the first jazz class offered through the system.

As the Director of UT’s Jazz Studies program he’s taught thousands of students over three decades the art of appreciating this music.

And now he’s taking that experience worldwide with his first online jazz appreciation class.

Through video lectures students will learn about the history, people, and learn how to listen to jazz.

“The one thing we hear from a lot of people is when they first listen to jazz is it’s disorganized and they can’t listen to it or can’t follow it, but I’m hoping through this course to show a lot of listeners it is possible to follow jazz and understand how it is organized,” said Professor Hellmer.

The 10 week course includes graded activities but the online program will be the one tracking student’s progress.

“Thank goodness that I don’t have to grade 18,000 term papers,” said Professor Hellmer.

And students will be able to meet with the professor – just virtually.

“In fact I’m going to have jazz office hours on Twitter so anyone from around the world, and we have students from around the world, and we can have a conversation in 140 characters or less about jazz,” said Professor Hellmer.

Those interested in registering for the class can do so Tuesday through Jan. 25.

The University of Texas is offering four classes.  The highest enrollment is for Effective Thinking Through Mathematics which has 37,415 students enrolled.

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