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Minerva Hybrid Pilot Bringing Students Together Physically for Classes Online

The Roman goddess of wisdom has lent her name to a new university in which students will meet much of the time online but live together in the same physical location. The endeavor is a partnership between a for-profit company and a private non-profit university. The Minerva Schools at KGI is under development by venture capital-backed Minerva Project and Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) of Applied Life Sciences, the newest member of the Claremont Colleges consortium.

The school is accepting applications for its fall semester as an experiment in hybrid learning. As its test pilots the first cohort of students won't pay tuition for the four years they'll be in the program.

During year one, the first group of students will all be sharing housing on Nob Hill in San Francisco in a residence hall staffed by "student life experts." After the first year, students will have a "gap" year, where they're expected to work for Minerva, participate in an internship program, or return home. Then, they'll come back to Minerva for the 2016-2017 school year and finish the remainder of their undergraduate degree programs.

By then, said school officials, Minerva will have opened two new residence halls somewhere else in the world. Cities referenced by Minerva include Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro, London, Cape Town, Mumbai, Sydney and Berlin.

According to the Minerva Schools Web site, faculty will use an "advanced interactive platform" to hold seminars with small groups of students in real time. Classes will be limited to 19 students and conducted online in order to "take advantage of tools not possible in a physical classroom." The course content will be supplemented with activities done in person — such as local data collection — in the cities where the students live. The platform will enable participants to play back discussions, divide students into small group for break-out sessions and assess student progress in every session of the course.

The first year of courses will focus on teaching critical thinking, logical analysis, and communication.

Once the school has received its accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, all students will graduate with either a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree. However, the curriculum is intended to be "highly interdisciplinary," the site stated. "Students in every major will take courses across subject matter."

The initial cohort is expected to have 15 to 19 students from around the world. Applications are being accepted through April 15, 2014 for the fall launch.

Once Minerva is officially underway, tuition will be $10,000 per school year, with another $1,000 for technology, books and supplies. However, room and board is expected to be around $16,000, including local transportation — but not, presumably, airfare to and from home.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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