Cyber University First to Offer College Courses via Cell Phone

Is Japan's booming cell phone culture too cool for school? Not according to Softbank, a Japanese cell phone service provider who just began offering college courses on the company's cell phones.

It's called Cyber University and although it currently offers but a single class, "Mysteries of the Pyramids", that should change soon according to Sakuji Yoshimura, head of Cyber University. The class is free although students will have to pay standard phone fees as they view and review the course content.

Cyber University is run by the Japan Cyber Educational Institute, a subsidiary of Softbank, and is no fly-by-night diploma mill - it currently offers about 100 online courses tailored to students who "attend" classes via their PCs.

Ancient Chinese culture, online journalism and English literature are just some of the many CU courses that may be coming to your cell phone soon - if you live in Japan and have a cell phone linked to Softbank's network. The cell phone course is somewhat stripped down from the PC version, utilizing streaming video and broadcast sound to relay the professor's voice.

Critics have pointed out that students who sign up for the cell phone classes miss the live interaction with other students and the teacher, though the steadily increasing growth of online and wireless social networking tends to compensate while keeping gadget-crazy young Japanese interested.

Once again, Japan's advanced mobile phone infrastructure shows not only what is possible, but what's in OUR future once our service providers catch up! (via ABC News and The Seattle Times)

Steve Levenstein
Japanese Innovations Writer