Frequently Asked Questions
NextGenU.org is the world’s first portal where anyone, anywhere, can get free, accredited higher education. For now, we concentrate our trainings (courses, degrees, certificates, residencies, etc.) primarily in the health sciences, using expert-created competencies and resources. We work in partnership with experts and professional organizations for quality assurance and endorsement, and we use cutting-edge educational innovations, including computer-based learning resources, and local and web-based peer-to-peer and mentoring experiences.
Yes — we are the first cost-free, barrier-free, advertisement-free, educational organization available to everyone around the world.
NextGenU.org’s learning model builds on educational best practices, including using high-quality online learning materials (e.g., text, videos, images), interactive peer activities (e.g., online chat rooms, and creating and assessing peer-generated case studies, images, and multiple-choice questions), and hands-on mentored experiences (e.g., seeing and discussing patients). This model mirrors and expands on the traditional university experience through interacting with peers and experts in the field of study, while learning basic knowledge on one’s own via online learning materials. Our courses do not require traditional faculty involvement in lectures (that’s part of how NextGenU.org can offer the trainings for free), although some competency sets require mentor-supervised activities (and those are spelled out in each course). We also strongly encourage teachers and training institutions around the world to link to the resources we’ve collected, even including creating full degrees with collections of our courses. We’d love to hear about it at info@NextGenU.org — we’re happy to provide you with data on your students if you’re an institution wishing to adopt our training. No costs or strings are attached, although we would like to evaluate and improve your experience and co-author peer-reviewed publications using de-identified data with you (we have considerable experience in doing so).
An abundance of free educational resources already exists, so our trainings are not expensive to assemble and create. The expert-derived competencies on which we base our trainings are already freely posted, as are the expert-created online learning resources (taken only from universities, governments, peer-reviewed journals, and professional societies) that address those competencies. We identify and pair the competencies with resources and with interactive experiences that we create for trainees to perform with mentors and peer trainees. Trainees also write reviews of each other’s work and interact in automatically translated chat rooms, forming an engaging global and sustainable community of practice, all for free. Trainings are further checked for quality and only posted after our expert volunteer Advisory Groups and co-sponsoring accredited organizations approve them.
“NextGenerationYou” was so named because we aim to constantly help educate the next generation of “you’s”, and we abbreviate as NextGenU.org, with a dot-org because we’re non-profit. The name “NextGenU.org” also suggests that we remain leading-edge and sustainable for all future generations — sustainable intellectually, financially, socially, and environmentally.
We are not a university. We do not grant credit or degrees; our university partners and other partners already accredited by their governments and professional societies give the credit for our courses (for free or for a minimal charge, depending on the university partner). Some people refer to us as the world’s first free university, likely because no one else offers free university-level courses with free testing and certification for academic credit to the whole world, without limits of number or place.
Our business model is based on the efficient beneficence of grateful learners/inspired donors. Grateful learners include the many thousands of professionals who have freely posted the resources NextGenU.org links to, along with the course creators and staff who have created this site, either as volunteers or typically earning no more than USD 25 per hour. We also expect that many of NextGenU.org’s trainees will donate money and/or time to create additional trainings, or to serve as mentors. More traditional donors have been key, as well — inspired individuals, organizations, and governments that have collaborated with us, both financially and intellectually. Please email info@NextGenU.org if you’re interested in joining these grateful and inspired people.
Many people have asked us why we don’t charge at least a little. First, we (and, we believe, the courts) don’t think that it’s legal or ethical fair use to charge a student to access material that we’ve neither developed nor posted, and which has been posted by others for free. Second, we have seen other organizations try different (but always monetized) systems, and no one else has succeeded in offering what we do: accredited and free courses and degrees. And third, we’ve figured out how we can give it away, so why should we charge? (That’s the .org in us 🙂
Africa Mental Health Foundation Fundacion Santa Fe Bogota U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Association of Public Health Physicians
Health Care Without Harm
Universidad de los Andes
American College of Preventive Medicine
Universidad San Francisco de Quito
American College of Sports Medicine
International Federation of Medical Student Associations
University of the West Indies
American Medical Student Association
International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
University of Zambia
International Primary Care Respiratory Group
Association for Prevention Teaching and Research
International Society of Doctors for the Environment
World Medical Association
Canada Research Chairs Program
Latin American Pediatric Association
World Health Organization
Global Affairs Canada
Medical Women’s International Association
Our NextGenU.org staff, and the 1000s of professionals globally who developed and shared resources
College of Surgeons of East/Central/Southern Africa
Physicians for Social Responsibility
David Suzuki Foundation
Presbyterian University of East Africa
Emory University Center for Injury Control
Public Health Foundation of India
Frank Foundation for International Health
Society for Academic Emergency Medicine
Students, professionals, and universities/Health Ministries/other training institutions, in every country.
If you look here, you can see where we have tested and published on this free model in North American medical, public health, and undergraduate students arenas and with community health workers and primary care physicians in Kenya and in India, with as much knowledge gain and greater student satisfaction than with traditional courses, along with the creation of a community of practice that has learned to interact globally and productively.
We have rigorously tested this free learning model and have published our results in peer-reviewed journals and other sources. Our research shows that the NextGenU.org free learning model works for North American medical, public health, and undergraduate students and for primary care clinicians in Kenya, and with community health workers in India. Our research also consistently shows as much knowledge gain and greater student satisfaction using the NextGenU.org model than with traditional courses, with the addition of creating a community of practice that interacts globally and productively.
Our technical support team is small, and you will need to access local support for any personal needs (for example, help finding a community partner or someone to supervise your community project. However, please let us know if there are site-related issues by clicking here.
Our offices are on desktops and laptops of contributors living and working on every continent! NextGenU.org is an activity of the Ulrich and Ruth Frank Foundation for International Health, incorporated as a non-profit foundation (a 501c3 organization) in the United States.
NextGenU.org’s founder, Dr. Erica Frank, began this work by starting to build NextGenU’s health sciences online library (www.hso.info) in 2001, to determine if there was enough depth of resources to create a major health professional training program. Dr. Frank is a professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health; you can learn more about her here.
While course resources and strategies began to be assembled and piloted in 2001, the first students were invited to enroll in courses in the spring of 2012. After evaluating, refining, and expanding those offerings, we launched NextGenU.org globally in April 2013.
First, because WHO states that the world needs over 14.5 million additional health providers and that serious global resource constraints combined with remarkable open courseware opportunities creates a perfect opportunity to leverage computer-assisted technology to train them. Second, because medical and public health schools globally typically allow students to receive credit for educational experiences offered away from their home institution, making such “away rotations/electives” a familiar and credible model for this very important use of NextGenU’s courses. Third, NextGenU.org’s core team is composed of experienced physicians, nurses, public health experts, and health sciences educators, teaching at some of North America’s leading medical and health science schools.
Questions about courses and trainings
You can find a list of currently offered courses here, and courses currently in development here. You may submit a suggestion for a new course by contacting us here, or see at the bottom of our FAQs for instructions about how to suggest a new course.
Since we are not a university, we do not use a semester or term system. Students can begin learning whenever they choose and can take as long as they’d like with a course — we’re competency-based, not semester-based. If you are taking a course for credit toward a degree at an institution where you are enrolled, they may have other rules about timing and documentation, and you should check before starting the course.
We’ve thought of four major ways our courses can be used:
Anyone/Anywhere/Any time — The first method of use is that anyone, anywhere can take these courses anytime they’d like. If you’d like a certificate of completion, you must have obtained any prerequisite education (this is stated on each course page) so we can feel confident that you would have the foundational knowledge needed to understand the course content. So, for example, for our Master’s in Public Health, you need to have a diploma for a Bachelor’s Degree or higher from a certified university.
A Student Enrolled in a University — Individual students enrolled anywhere in the world can sign up to take the courses directly for a certificate of completion — all of our trainings are certified by universities and specialty societies credentialed to offer courses. Alternatively, your institution can offer the course, including helping students identify local peers and mentors for any hands-on requirements. Many respected institutions around the world are doing just that with NextGenU.org, from the U.S. Walter Reed Army Medical Center (using NextGenU.org’s Emergency Medicine training for senior medical students) to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (both in the U.S. and abroad). These trainings could be helpful for fundamentals (especially in developing countries) or for electives not available at many schools (in both developing and industrialized countries) — a full list of the offerings are *here*.
A Faculty Member or Dean at a Traditional University — Maybe you are a Professor in or a Dean of a School of Medicine and you want to teach your students pre-clinical and clinical sciences, but you can’t afford to hire another basic scientist or clinician. Or, your new faculty hire wants/needs to spend most of their time researching and/or seeing patients. A NextGenU.org solution to this would be using our online trainings to teach facts and create significant interactions with an international community of mentors and peers interested in the course topic. Additionally, a university could identify local mentors and peers to help students acquire and practice skills, with scarce faculty members made available to answer higher-level questions.
A practitioner who’d like to learn more — You may need additional education or perhaps you’d like to grow professionally, but barriers like cost and time away from home and work always seem too high. NextGenU.org can allow you to train with a global community of peers . For those courses with a hands-on component, NGUO provides resources for you to interact with a mentor that agrees to work with you.
Perhaps there are other categories of learners we’ve missed? — Please let us know how you use NextGenU.org (email firstname.lastname@example.org). Whatever role you’re in, it is worth noting that trainees should not be charged for using the openly posted learning materials that are the foundation of our free training, as this is likely not fair use of this openly posted intellectual property. However, institutions may indeed charge for providing mentors and evaluation for full degrees.
There are no admission requirements to take any course. Anyone who wishes to take any NextGenU.org course may do so, free of barriers. If you wish to take a course for credit, however, you have to be currently registered at a university that has agreed to give you credit for the course. If you’d like a certificate of completion, you must be prepared to provide proof of the prior degree if requested. (For example, for our Master’s in Public Health, you need a diploma with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher from a certified university.) Some courses also require that to receive academic credit or a certificate of completion, you need to obtain a local or remote mentor who will guide you through skills-based training components (e.g., practicum/capstone projects). If a course requires a mentor, that will be stated on the course webpage, along with any educational or experience requirements they need to be qualified as a course mentor.
Each course has a link to register for the course, as well as any suggested or required prerequisites. If you are taking the course for personal learning, and don’t want a certificate at the end, nor to do the peer activities or tests, you do not need to register but can just dive in if you prefer.
All of our courses are offered in partnership with organizations (universities, professional specialty societies, and/or government agencies) that are certified to give courses for credit. However, since NextGenU.org is not a university and cannot directly grant academic credit, if you wish to get transferable credit, you should verify if your home university is willing to grant you internal credit for courses you complete at NextGenU.org. (We suggest that you do this before completing the course!) At your request, we can email the following to your designee (such as a faculty member or registrar) at your home university:
a link to and description of the course training, so they can see the components
your work products, such as the required case study and multiple choice questions, and any other optional shared materials that you produce and authorize to share with them
your evaluations — the mentored-, self-, and peer-to-peer-assessments, and your final exam scores (with comparisons with the median scores of others at your level of training, and with everyone who’s taken the course). NextGenU.org’s faculty has supervised thousands of students using more traditional courses, clerkships, internships, and other “visiting rotations”, and we feel confident that the metrics that NextGenU.org provides to home universities are far richer than the feedback schools typically get when faculty outside the home institutions provide some of their trainees’ education. NextGenU.org can also provide final exams that your university could directly supervise your taking, and we can also videotape your taking the final exam and give other test metrics (time/websites visited during the exam, etc.) to your home university (of course, all for free). We’re also happy to hear requests from institutions for other metrics that would provide even more information about their students’ performance. We suggest that, as with any course you take outside of your home institution, you check in early with your university to be sure they’ll allow the credit, and that you emphasize the accredited cosponsoring organizations offering the course, and the multiple evaluation metrics you’ll be giving your school so they can determine your level of effort and accomplishment.
a copy of your certificate of completion, with the cosponsoring universities and other organizations listed.
The best help that we’ve integrated into NextGenU.org is the presence for everyone of an international set of peers with whom you directly interact, including in a chat room (with automated translation available) where peers, mentors, course graduates, course creators, and advisory committee members visit to provide advice and direction.
Through the powerful gift of Google Translate, all of the text included in NextGenU.org can be translated into >100 languages. While this service is limited by the weaknesses of an automated translator tool, Google’s program encourages submissions to them of better translations, and hovering one’s mouse over the translated text makes the original English text pop up.
Please explain the logo?
NextGenU.org’s logo is a small homage laden with a large amount of symbolism. To NextGenU.org’s founders, it looks like:
the silhouette of an apple for the teacher: the apple signifies health (traditional North American icons of education and health)
a heart/love symbol, because NextGenU.org is the product of the enormous generosity of tens of thousands of smart, kind, eager people around the world, because we have warm senses of humor, and for many of the other attributes cited for the heart symbol here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_(symbol)
an academic shield or a mortarboard (the hat worn at many formal graduation ceremonies)
the biblical 10 commandments in silhouette (we told you it was quite a rich list!)
the fullest expression of our name that we can fit in a small space (including the .org, because that’s where our URL is, and that’s where our philosophical foundation rests)
the “bright green” colors that we use to denote intelligent and meaningful sustainability
What does our logo symbolize to you? Click here to tell us!
What’s the ideal story of what NextGenU.org could look like for a student?
Imagine a 25 year old woman named Hope, living in Kikuyu, Kenya. Hope has finished University, and would like to stay in Kikuyu and to become a doctor. Since she hasn’t taken all the pre-medical courses needed for admission to medical school, she takes NextGenU.org’s Pre-Health Sciences Certificate (coming soon). She continues to work at a local job to earn a living, and takes our Certificate from home for free over two years’ time, doing well on our assessments, and developing a good relationship with a local doctor at whose clinic she volunteers one day per week. Hope is offered admission to new medical school, Presbyterian University of East Africa (PUEA). NextGenU.org has partnered with PUEA since 2010 to offer and test many of our basic and clinical science trainings, and Hope takes many of those courses during her training. Hope graduates and takes her Gyn/Ob residency training at a local hospital, using the residency program we have developed in partnership with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics and Medical Women’s International Association. Later, when she is in practice, she gets free professional development through NextGenU.org, and she is a clinical mentor every year to several medical students for their Gyn/Ob rotation.
You can take exams in one of two ways:
Directly supervised at your home institution: If you give us the name, job title, and email address of a University official who wishes to proctor your exam, we will email them your test to have you complete it online under their supervision.
Indirectly supervised anywhere: We can automatically generate multiple test validity metrics, including the amount of time taken for each question, other sites visited by your computer while you take the test, and a videotaped record of your test-taking.
NextGenU.org is competency-based, so we do not offer grades. You may retake a course until you achieve the required competencies. We do offer certificates of completion and abundant metrics assessing your performance in the course as compared to the performances of others. We will freely provide to you and your designees your final exam score (or scores, if you take it more than once), with comparisons between your scores and the average scores of others taking the course, including specific comparisons with others at your level of training. In addition, you will be assessed by your peers and (depending on the course requirements) your mentor. You must pass all/any required mentored/peer activities to receive a certificate of completion.
Students are assessed in four different ways:
Self-assessment — Students complete questionnaires that help them reflect on what they have learned and to help them (and us) more deeply learn from their experience in the course.
Peer assessment — Students interact with other students who are taking the same course. These peers may reside in the same geographic area; if this is the case, students may interact mainly in person. Regardless, students interact with others in the course via built-in real-time chat rooms, asynchronous forums, and other electronic media. As this is a competency-based system, students can re-do assignments until they pass all the criteria.
Mentor assessment — Some courses require the student to obtain a mentor. Ideally, this is someone local, so the student and mentor can interact in person (although distance mentoring is acceptable if available and no one is available locally). At the end of the course, mentors will fill out a standardized questionnaire about the students’ skills, knowledge, behavior, and attitudes.
Objective knowledge assessment — Students take quizzes throughout the course, along with a multiple-choice final exam at the end of the course. The content of the quizzes and final exam come directly from the learning materials student are asked to study as part of each competency.
Some courses require the student to perform local, in-person learning activities, for example meeting with a patient for lifestyle coaching or providing a community activity. Some courses may also require residency training hours with a qualifying supervisor, or a capstone project or practicum. These practical experiences help you apply the knowledge you learn in the NextGenU.org course. These exercises will help you learn more than you would just by reading a text or listening to a lecture, since you will actively discuss and practice important skills with your community, peers, and/or mentor.
These are our current best answers to a lot of questions that we and others have posed about better methods for higher education — methods that have been tested and found to be of consistently high quality and free of cost, barriers, advertisements, and greenhouse gas emissions. We are actively refining these trainings with institutions from New York to Nairobi, and we know that some of our current approaches will be supplanted by new, better ideas. The leaders of NextGenU.org have studied and taught at some of the finest educational institutions in the world, have considerable expertise in education, and have worked with those with more expertise to help us refine and implement our ideas. We would be pleased to hear your thoughts on how NextGenU.org can do better. Contact us here.
Questions about mentors
Learning online can be very efficient and convenient, but it also can lack the advantages of human contact. Many courses have established competency requirements created by experts in the field. Many times, this includes some one-to-one mentoring so that you can directly learn from and interact with someone possessing experience in the subject. This is often a critical component of an active, high-quality learning environment and is therefore often offered as an optional activity even when competencies don’t require it. This mentored component can be done in person or, in some cases, remotely through Zoom/Skype/etc.; we hope and expect that this person will become a permanent part of your professional network.
The role of a mentor is to guide the learner through the mentored assignments in the course and then grade the assignments once they are submitted by the learner. The specifics of mentor responsibilities depend on the course and assignment. For more information on the mentoring role, please review this section of our FAQs and the course homepage.
A mentor should be a qualified expert in the field of your NextGenU.org course — they might be a professor at your university, or a local practicing professional who is willing to spend some time teaching you, or someone remotely who you’ve identified through your networks. Please refer to the course page for specific mentor requirements, including any requirements for their level of training and practice.
If you are taking a NextGenU.org course for personal learning, you do not need to find a mentor. If you are taking a course for a certificate of completion or academic credit, and your course requires a mentor, we suggest checking with local experts in the field. Perhaps someone at a nearby college/university, health clinic, hospital, business, or other organization would be willing to work with you? Perhaps your local Health Department or Ministry of Health can help you locate a mentor, or perhaps you can search for a mentor via an online networking or professional society website?
Thank you for wanting to serve as a mentor! You can let us know of your interest here. Mentoring can take a lot of different forms. Maybe you can supervise a medical student as they take care of patients; maybe you can mentor an academician in training and co-publish (at NextGenU.org) a case study on an interesting patient; maybe you can help a public health student by co-authoring a letter to the editor of a local paper. There are a variety of possible mentoring activities in our courses. Mentoring could also involve serving as a volunteer to remotely monitor chat rooms or supervise a learner via phone/Skype/Gchat.
Questions about peers
Yes, it’s encouraged – in person face-to-face is even better than remote face-to-face!
If you need help finding a peer, some courses have peer groups to make peer identification easier. Contact us here if you have questions.
We expect NextGenUsers to always act respectfully – please let us know about anyone behaving inappropriately by clicking here.
How can I help?
You can go to our PayPal donation . Or, contact us at donations@NextGenU.org for other ways to donate, including if you would like to support the growth and maintenance of an existing course, or if you would like to support us developing a new course in a particular area of interest to you.
So glad you asked! Please send us a very brief email to info@NextGenU.org that answers the following questions:
What topic will the training address?
Who are the likely learners, and why is this training needed?
Who could do the work of identifying the online resources, designing the peer and mentored activities, and/or creating an initial bank of multiple-choice questions?
Peer-Reviewed Research on NextGenU.org
1. Galway L, Corbett K, Takaro T, Tairyan K, Frank E. (2014). A novel integration of online and flipped classroom instructional models in public health higher education. BMC Medical Education. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6920-14-181
2. Coops N, Marcus J, Costrut I, Frank E, Kellett R, Mazzi E, Munro A, Nesbit S, Riseman A, Schultz A, Sipos Y. 2015. How an entry-level, interdisciplinary sustainability course revealed the benefits and challenges of a university-wide initiative for sustainability education. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280731205_How_an_entry-level_interdisciplinary_sustainability_course_revealed_the_benefits_and_
3. Clair V, Mutiso V, Musau A, Frank E, Ndetei D. 2016. Online learning improves substance use care in Kenya: Randomized control trial results and implications. Annals of Global Health. May 2016. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306351641_Online_learning_improves
4. Frank E, Tairyan K, Everton M, Chu J, Goolsby C, Hayes A, Hulton A. (2016). A Test of the First Course (Emergency Medicine) that is Globally Available for Credit and for Free. Healthcare. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213076416300264?via%3Dihub
5. Nadkarni A, Weobong B, Weiss HA, et al. (2017). Counselling for Alcohol Problems (CAP), a lay counsellor-delivered brief psychological treatment for harmful drinking in men, in primary care in India: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet (London, England). https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)31590-2/fulltext
6. Patel V, Weobong B, Weiss HA, et al. (2017). The Healthy Activity Program (HAP), a lay counsellor-delivered brief psychological treatment for severe depression, in primary care in India: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet (London, England). https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)31589-6/fulltext
7. Rossa-Roccor, V, Malatskey, L, Frank, E. (2017). NextGenU.org’s Free, Globally Available Online Training in Lifestyle Medicine. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. https://doi.org/10.
8. Heller R, Madhok R, Frank E. (2018). Building Public Health Capacity through Online Global Learning. Open Praxis. https://openpraxis.org/index.php/OpenPraxis/article/view/746/427
9. Clair V, Rossa-Roccor V, Mokaya AG, Mutiso V, Musau A, Tele A, Ndetei D, Frank E. (2019). Peer and Mentored Enhanced Web-Based Training on Substance Use Disorders: A Promising Approach in Low-Resource Settings to Teach Knowledge and Skills and Decrease Stigma. Psychiatric Services. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31551043
10. Tsuei S, Frank E. (2019). Becoming a Health Advocate: An Interview with Erica Frank. https://ubcmj.med.ubc.ca/becoming-a-health-advocate-an-interview-with-erica-frank/
11. World Health Organization. (2020). Call to Action: Addressing the 18 million health worker shortfall. Submission 2. 5. https://www.who.int/hrh/news/2019/Call-to-Action-Campaign-FirstRoundSubmissions.pdf