TOKYO (AP) - Japanese already use cell phones to shop, read novels, exchange e-mail, search for restaurants and take video clips. Now, they're taking a university course.
Cyber University, the nation's only university to offer all classes only on the Internet, began offering a class on the
mysteries of the pyramids on mobile phones Wednesday.
For classes for personal computers, the lecture downloads play on the monitor as text and images in the middle, and a smaller video of the lecturer shows in the corner, complete with sound.
The cell phone version, which pops up as streaming video on the handset's tiny screen, plays just the Power Point images.
In a demonstration Wednesday at a Tokyo hotel, an image of the pyramids popped up on the screen and changed to a text image as a professor's voice played from the handset speakers.
Cyber University, which opened in April with government approval to give bachelor's degrees, has 1,850 students.
The virtual campus is 71 percent owned by Softbank Corp., a major Japanese mobile carrier, which also has broadband operations and offers online gaming, shopping and electronic stock trading services.
The cell phone lectures may be expanded to other courses but for now will be for the pyramids course, according to Cyber University, which offers about 100 courses, including ancient Chinese culture, online journalism and English literature.
Unlike the other classes, the one on cell phones will be available to the public for free, although viewers must pay phone fees.
The catch is the lectures can only be seen on some Softbank phones. The service may be expanded to other carriers, officials said.
Sakuji Yoshimura, who heads Cyber University and gives the pyramids course, said the university gives educational opportunities for people who find it hard to attend real-life universities, including those with jobs, the handicapped and the sick.
"Our duty as educators is to respond to the needs of people who want to learn," Yoshimura said.
He scoffed at those who question the value of Internet and cell-phone classes, noting attendance is relatively high at 86 percent. Whether students play the lecture downloads to the end can be monitored by the university digitally, officials said.
Although real-time exchange with professors and other students isn't possible in Net classes, social networking and other cyber-discussions are flourishing, said Hiroshi Kawahara, professor in the Faculty of Information Technology and Business.