A year ago, UC Irvine plunged into an experimental online teaching model that allowed hundreds of thousands of students around the world to take university courses for free.

No one knew if these classes, called massive open online courses, would attract serious students, or if UCI faculty could teach to such a large, diverse audience, or if the online class forums would dissolve into chaos. Despite some bumps, though, UCI officials say they've been pleasantly surprised by the outcomes for these noncredit courses, which rely mostly on prerecorded lecture videos, computerized grading and little faculty interaction, the Orange County Register reports.

“We positioned...

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