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University to Feature Online Classes, Bricks-and-mortar Dorms
May 12, 2013

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A university planned for a 2015 opening will feature online instruction but have students living on campus.

The Minerva Project will have dormitories around the world, shifting students to live in Paris, Beijing, Sao Paulo, and a few other countries during the traditional four-year university cycle. All the while, the students will be taking the classes online.

Professors will lead electronic seminars that will feature no more than 25 students. Live interaction will be expected.

Students will not take part in intercollegiate athletics and will live in dorms rented from developers in several countries.

The university will hire experts from around the world to write the curriculum and new postgraduates to run the seminars. A prime incentive will be the Minerva Prize, an annual $500,000 prize to a professor who contributes to the university efforts. Sophisticated software will evaluate student work.

The Minerva Project, named after the Roman goddess of wisdom, will be run by Ben Nelson, who used to be in charge of Snapfish, a photo sharing and printing website. Nelson and other luminaries such as former U.S. Treasury Secretary and Harvard President LArry Summers have helped raise $25 million for the university, which is on a two-year exploration cycle with a projected opening date of 2015. The first dean is expected to be Stephen Kosslyn, Stanford University's director of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences.

Nelson expects a few hundred students in the first class.

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