A new online learning web site called Udemy, which has been in testing for several months and has amassed more than 1,000 active users spread over some 400 courses, launched on May 11, ReadWriteWeb reports. Udemy’s goal is “to democratize online education” by providing tools so that educators can easily create their own online courses. Courses on Udemy allow students to interact with their instructors both synchronously and asynchronously, which is more than offered by educational videos or presentations posted to YouTube. Students subscribe to courses on Udemy so their instructors can communicate with them through blog posts, discussion boards, and virtual conferencing. The site’s Live Virtual Classroom allows instructors to host virtual conferences with students, using live video, a whiteboard, and a chatroom. Courses currently on Udemy range from a Columbia University class on “The Masterpieces of Western Art” to an “Introduction to Poker.” At present, classes on the site are free, but Udemy plans to give teachers the option to charge for the courses they offer. While online learners are certain to benefit from the added interaction and community that Udemy provides, it might be this ability to earn some extra money that brings teachers and tutors to the service…

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staff and wire services reports