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University of the People Is Accredited, Just Not As You Might Think

By Christopher Zoukis / BlogCritcs.org

On February 14, 2014 the New York Times ran a story about a very promising initiative called the University of the People. This young online school, founded just four years ago, offers courses to disadvantaged and underserved groups mostly for free (application costs run $0 to $50 and examination costs are $100). The University of the People has 700 students from 142 countries currently taking classes. Some 25 percent are from the United States and 30 percent are from Africa.

While there are several popular online courseware platforms currently in existence – think of edX and Coursera – University of the People is different. Classes often consist of 20 to 30 students and run for ten weeks. Quizzes and homework assignments are expected of all students, regardless of the diverse range of countries where they might reside. While a reported 3,000 professors have volunteered, only 100 have actually been used in either courseware development or instruction. Current degree offerings include degrees in computer science and business administration.

The idea behind such an initiative is that there is a way to offer free – or very low-cost – high quality education to students anywhere in the world, all through a central course delivery system. Programs like the University of the People manage to do so through open courseware which often relies heavily on textual content. This is an essential component of any such global program due to the lack of broadband internet access in African countries, a major geographic focus of such educational initiatives.

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Interview: Christopher Zoukis, Co-Author of ‘The Directory of Federal Prisons’

By Randall Radic / BlogCritics.org

During the past several years, America’s ever-burgeoning prison population and the devastating problem of recidivism has become a topic of much public discussion. With billions, many billions, being spent every year to incarcerate America’s 2.3 million prisoners and jail detainees, the American people have begun to call for reforms to our go-to policy of locking criminals up and throwing away the key. It has become clear that while we can try to incapacitate away our problems, that the cost is simply not worth the benefit. With this concept in many policy makers’ and reform advocates’ minds, the discussion has shifted from a punitive one to one which highlights rehabilitation, reformation, and reintegration.

Today I sit down with Christopher Zoukis, co-author with me of the Directory of Federal Prisons: PrisonLawBlog.com’s Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory, to discuss this latest project, why it matters, and how a simple directory of official information can help rehabilitate, reform, and reintegrate American prisoners.

To start, who are you and why should we care?

My name is Christopher Zoukis. I am the author of Education Behind Bars: A Win-Win Strategy for Maximum Security (Sunbury Press, 2012), the Directory of Federal Prisons: PrisonLawBlog.com’s Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory (Middle Street Publishing, 2014), and the forthcoming College for Convicts (McFarland & Company, 2015). I’m also a regular contributing writer at Prison Legal News — the world’s premier prison law monthly — and the founder of prisoneducation.com and prisonlawblog.com.

Simply stated, you should care because I haven’t only talked the talk, I have walked the walk. I have worked hard and earned the respect of those in prisoners’ rights and prison law fields, who have accepted my work for publication. And I have done all of this from federal prison. Who better to ask how to fix America’s prison system then someone who is currently incarcerated and who studies and writes about America’s broken system of criminal justice?

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