NextGenU.org is the world’s first portal where anyone, anywhere, can get free, accredited higher education. For now, our trainings (courses, degrees, certificates, residencies, etc.) are focused 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 – students interact with peers and experts in the field of study, while learning basic knowledge independently via online learning materials. Our courses do not require traditional faculty involvement in lectures (that’s part of how NextGenU.org can offer training 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 and even 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. The expert-derived competencies on which we base our trainings are often 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 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 it 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.
NextGenU.org’s founder, Dr. Erica Frank, began this work by building NextGenU.org’s health sciences online library (www.hso.info) in 2001, to determine whether 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 we began assembling and piloting course resources and strategies in 2001, the first students were invited to enroll in courses in the spring of 2012. After evaluating, refining, and expanding those offerings, NextGenU.org launched globally in April 2013.
The World Health Organization 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. 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.
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 volunteer course creators and staff who have created this site. We also expect that many of NextGenU.org’s trainees will donate money and/or time to create additional training materials, 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.
Our NextGenU.org staff, and the 1000s of professionals globally who developed and shared resources
Frank Foundation for International Health
Students, professionals, and universities/Health Ministries/other training institutions, in every country.
If you click here, you can see publications on our efficacy. We have rigorously tested this free learning 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 and have published our results in peer-reviewed journals and other sources. Our research 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.
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 with the institution before starting the course.
There are four major ways we recommend 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 at their own pace. If you’d like a certificate of completion, you must have obtained the 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. For example, for our Master’s in Public Health, you need to have a diploma for a Bachelor’s Degree or higher from a 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 use this approach, 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 as fundamentals (especially in developing countries) or as 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 or Dean at 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 potential solution to this would be using NextGenU.org’s online materials 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.
These are just our suggestions, but you might have different ideas or experiences. Please let us know how you use NextGenU.org (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
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. Rather, you can just dive in and access the materials for free.
Select courses are offered in partnership with organizations (universities, professional specialty societies, and/or government agencies) that are certified to give courses for credit. Check each course’s home page for its sponsorship. However, since NextGenU.org is not a university and cannot directly grant academic credit, if you wish to get transferable credit, you should verify whether 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:
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 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 individuals to submit better translations, and hovering one’s mouse over the translated text makes the original English text pop up.
You can take exams in one of two ways:
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:
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. The exercises will help you learn more than you would solely from 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 even 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.
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.
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 using NextGenU.org course materials 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. We recommend checking whether someone at a nearby college/university, health clinic, hospital, business, or other organization would be willing to work with you. Alternatively, your local Health Department or Ministry of Health may be able to help you locate a mentor, or you can try searching 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. You can supervise a medical student as they take care of patients; mentor an academician in training and co-publish (at NextGenU.org) a case study on an interesting patient; 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.
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.
We’re glad you asked! Please send an email to info@NextGenU.org that answers the following questions: