Advancing Global Access to Digital Higher Education

University of the People and Yale University Law School ISP Research Partnership

The vessels of higher education are changing.  The Internet, social networking and open resources make it possible to bring higher education within reach of millions of people, at a minimal cost.

With such opportunities, however, there are also challenges to overcome. Further debate and understanding is necessary to maximize the benefits of free digital education and bring it to the most underserved parts of the world. It is with this goal in mind that University of the People (UoPeople) has formed a partnership with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School (Yale ISP).

Overseen by UoPeople Founder and President Shai Reshef, with the support of Professor Jack Balkin, Director of the Information Society Project, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School and member of the University of the People Advisory Committee, the partnership’s goals are multifold:

1. Digital Education Research Project

Designed to investigate potential legal barriers to innovative models for online education, the Digital Education Research Project will be conducted in collaboration with students and faculty of the Access to Knowledge course at Yale Law School.

In this course, students will have the opportunity to apply their studies to the UoPeople model, researching and critically examining the laws and policies that shape and enhance access to information and education. With the direction of a Yale ISP fellow and consultation of Yale ISP faculty directors, students will discover the strengths and weakness of UoPeople, as well as the exceptions and limitations to copyright in digital education.

Resulting analyses and recommendations will be reported to academic and policy conferences, journals and international forums such as the World Intellectual Property Organization, the Internet Governance Forum and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

2. Edited Volume on Digital Education Freedom
Yale ISP members Laura DeNardis and Michael Zimmer, along with other coeditors, will launch the MIT Press Information Society Series, including a volume on the opportunities and challenges of digital education. This volume will be authored by Reshef and feature a chapter on UoPeople.

3. Digital Education Events at Yale Law School within the Yale ISP Speaker Series
The Yale ISP Speaker Series, a popular lecture series and important channel for promoting new trends in technology, society and laws among the Yale community and beyond, will feature one speaker per semester who addresses the issues UoPeople faces: digital education and its potential to reach the world’s poorest and most underserved regions. On February 12-13, 2010, Reshef will speak at the Conference on Access to Knowledge and Human Rights.

4. Global Network Building
The Yale ISP has an investment in international research and close ties with a global network of partners that share similar missions. By leveraging these relationships and recognizing each partners’ area of expertise, Yale ISP will help UoPeople realize its goal of becoming a truly global service. This network will help identify unique opportunities and challenges in each country UoPeople reaches, encourage the involvement of individuals around the world and establish strategic public-private partnerships.

5. Student Internships
Internship and mentorship programs will be an integral component of this partnership. Students of Yale Law School will be given the opportunity to intern as Yale ISP research fellows at the University of the People, and will also be paired with students of UoPeople to learn from one another.

UoPeople’s goal is ambitious but, with the support of Yale ISP and other great minds, it is within reach.

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