Here’s how classes work: Holakou Rahmanian turns on his computer early in the morning or late at night. He goes to a website whose address is known only to students, faculty and administrators of his university. Sometimes he’s in his pajamas when he logs in. Sometimes, he guesses, his professors are also in their pajamas. In his four years of classes, he has only seen his online teachers’ faces once or twice. The bandwidth is saved for their voices and online whiteboards.
Rahmanian, 23, completed a degree in computer science last fall and is close to finishing his second major in mathematics. He is one of about 50,000 students who have studied in unconventional ways at the Bahá’í Institute of Higher Education since it was founded in 1987 to subvert official discrimination by the Iranian government.