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Thanks to MOOC, now anyone can study at Oxford University

If you’ve ever fancied challenging your noggin via a visit to one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions, then Oxford University can help you out.

OK, you won’t exactly be pacing through its hallowed halls during your determined quest for knowledge and wisdom, but a new online course offered by the university might at least encourage some of its educational magic to enter that gray mush upstairs.

Currently sitting atop the World University Rankings list, Oxford University has just announced its very first massive open online course, better known as MOOC.

Launching in February next year, the university has hooked up with  nonprofit online learning platform edX to offer a free economics class titled, From Poverty to Prosperity: Understanding Economic Development.

Enrolment for the six-week class is open now, and those who sign up will be expected to spend two to three hours a week on studies. Participants aren’t required to have any specific academic qualifications, though a deep interest in the subject will certainly help.

Once it’s finished, the course will stay online and be made available to the public, with materials including video lectures, case studies, and readings free for everyone to peruse. You can even test yourself with multiple choice quizzes, though unlike with the MOOC course, there’ll be no chance to interact with peers or lecturers.

Professor Anne Trefethen, Oxford University’s chief information officer, said the university was looking forward to the opportunity “to explore further the potential of technology-enhanced learning.”

MOOCs have been operating for a few years but started to get really popular around 2012. Some 4,200 courses are offered by more than 500 universities, including Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia, and student numbers total a whopping 35 million globally.