18 April 2012

Coursera: New, Hardcore Free Online University Courses

Coursera is both a platform for developing free online university level courseware and a website for accessing already developed online university courses. The courses come free of charge from top universities such as Stanford, Princeton, U Penn., U Mich., and UC Berkeley.
The Coursera courses -- which total 39 across all the universities -- will be interactive, with perhaps hundreds of thousands of students completing exams and assigned work that will be graded, either by intelligent software or by their peers. The universities will own the courses.

These include six courses in the humanities and social sciences, including History of the World Since 1300, Introduction to Sociology, and Modern & Contemporary American Poetry. That is uncharted territory for the new breed of MOOC -- which focuses on scale, assessment and certification -- that emerged last fall at Stanford and has since taken hold at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

...Princeton, Penn and Michigan will join Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley as partners of Coursera, a company founded earlier this year by the Stanford engineering professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng. Using Coursera’s platform, the universities will produce free, online versions of their courses that anyone can take.

...There are “100 wrong ways” to do online education, and Penn has been "looking for years” for the right way, Amy Gutmann, Penn's president, said in an interview.
Gutmann said she doesn’t care if Penn eventually makes money from its MOOC experiment, noting that the cost for Penn of taking its courses online with Coursera -- which is buoyed by $16 million in venture capital -- has so far amounted to “a rounding error in my budget.”
The Penn president also said faculty have leaped at the opportunity to teach MOOCs, even without major incentives (participating professors may get some summer release time to create courses, she said).

...“There are no definite plans yet for what courses, if any, might have certificates and, if they exist, how much might be charged for them,” wrote MacCarthy via e-mail. “That said, if there were to be some monetization and revenues in the future, universities would partner with Coursera in determining any future structure or pricing for certificates.”
Ng, one of the Coursera founders, said “no firm decisions have been made yet” on how the company’s university partners might recognize the achievement of their non-enrolled students. “We've had informal discussions with the partner universities about different certificate options, but the final decision will be made on a per-university and per-course basis,” Ng wrote via e-mail. _IHE
Coursera will join a growing list of free online university courseware providers. It appears as if different universities may come to endorse particular courseware platforms, such as Coursera vs. Udacity vs. Open Courseware etc. It would seem preferable, however, for different departments or professors within any given school to make such choices between various course development platforms on his or her own.


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