When the 2010-2011 academic year opens Israel's Open University will begin offering courses taught in Russian, over the Internet, to Russian-speakers who live abroad.
This is the first time that any Israeli academic institution is offering degree studies over the Web in a foreign language for people living outside the country. Until now the language of instruction of Open University's online offerings has always been Hebrew.
The university hopes to enroll about 1,000 students in the first year. It is offering 24 courses, most of them with Israeli or Jewish content. Subjects include the Holocaust, Oral Torah, Jewish-Christian relations and Israeli government and politics. Examinations will be administered at Israeli consulates and at Jewish Agency offices around the world.
Open University President Hagit Messer-Yaron, whose idea this was, says the project brings quality education to Russian-speakers with Internet access throughout the world.
The university has launched a Web site for the program.
The Open University's project began 17 years ago, when the translation of university textbooks was funded by donors. These books were distributed among Jews across the former Soviet Union in cooperation with the Jewish Agency.
Since then the university has continued the program and has invested some $10 million in the translation of course material and books into Russian. The university has also invested NIS 1.5 million in uploading the material onto the Internet.