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Monday, May 28, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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UW to offer free online courses

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Learning at the University of Washington is about to become a whole lot cheaper.

Beginning this summer, the UW will offer nearly a dozen online courses on topics ranging from Gulliver's Travels to the American Civil War to HTML basics - all for free.

The abbreviated, noncredit courses, which are based on full-length courses, are intended to let people sample distance learning. David Szatmary, vice provost of the UW's Educational Outreach office, hopes the classes will entice people to enroll in the full courses.

Other universities offer free course material over the Internet, such as class outlines, lecture notes and handouts. But none offer the material in a "functional, coherent way" for people to learn, Szatmary said.

"We're the first, and that's why I'm so excited about this," he said.

The courses are being offered through a partnership with The Learning Network, a San Francisco-based educational-services company.

The courses include a preliminary self-quiz, two to three lessons and a final quiz, Szatmary said.

Each course can be taken at any time and completed at the student's pace.

What the students won't get is an instructor. For that, they'll have to sign up for the full course.

School officials say the free service falls in with the university's mission of providing access to the public. It also will allow potential students to test-drive distance learning.

Szatmary hopes to expand the free service to include courses from a consortium of 34 major research universities.

Other topics offered include history of New Orleans jazz, business writing, nutrition, Shakespeare and Greek mythology.

The courses are expected to be available in early to mid-June at www.learningnetwork.com/lifelong. For more information, contact the UW outreach office at 206-543-2320 or uweo@u.washington.edu.

Ray Rivera can be reached at 206-464-2926.

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