Coursera Adds 10 State Schools to its Ranks

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June 4th, 2013 No Comments Other

On May 29th, MOOC-platform Coursera announced that it would be welcoming 10 new partners into its online family. Coursera had previously been known only to partner with elite institutions, making the development somewhat controversial in terms of its institutional mission.

The partners comprise a mix of university systems and flagship universities: State University of New York (SUNY), the Tennessee Board of Regents and University of Tennessee Systems, University of Colorado System, University of Houston System, University of Kentucky, University of Nebraska, University of New Mexico, University System of Georgia and West Virginia University.

“By working with these institutions,” Coursera announced on its blog, “we hope to motivate and encourage new methods and enhance previous approaches to teaching on-campus and online. Professors teaching at these schools will have the opportunity to develop online courses through Coursera, as well as adapt existing Coursera courses for their own classrooms.”

Nancy L. Zimpher, chancellor of the nation’s largest system of public higher education, The State University of New York, said: “This new partnership with Coursera will be invaluable as we launch Open SUNY, which will give our students increased access to the online courses SUNY faculty offer in New York and worldwide. Working with Coursera presents a fantastic opportunity for higher education systems across the country to increase educational access, instructional quality and exposure, and degree completion. We are proud to be a part of this effort and look forward to getting started.”

Collectively, these 10 universities enroll 1.25 million of the nation’s 21 million college students. The new partnership is aimed at using MOOCs to reach not only online students around the world, but also students already physically attending classes at these universities, as well as high school students who hope to enroll there.

“We’ve looked at our student population, and most of our students taking courses are the ones who already have degrees,” Coursera’s Daphne Koller said in an interview. Koller shares CEO duties with her co-founder Andrew Ng, and both are computer science professors at Stanford University. While it’s great to be promoting lifelong learning, Koller said, “We realized in order to address the fundamental problems in higher education, we needed to work with the students who needed it the most.” In other words, the company needed to be working with the state university systems that serve about 70 percent of the students in higher education.

These new partners will not be offering MOOCs in the same mode as others in the Coursera catalog. They will have the option of publishing either publicly or through a private section of the website reserved for their own students. An instructor could decide to use selected videos from a Coursera course, and then add in a few of his own plus some additional quizzes, according to Koller.

While the partnership is official, says David F. Carr for Information Week, some of the universities are just starting to develop plans for putting it into practice, and their approaches will vary. The University of Kentucky plans to create two different introductory chemistry courses, designed by its faculty but possibly including some MOOC content and other open educational resources, senior vice provost and CIO Vincent Kellen said in an interview. The target is to have those offerings ready to go for January 2014.

While the University of Kentucky is developing online courses, the University System of Georgia is thinking primarily in terms of incorporating existing MOOC content into instruction.

“In all the excitement generated by MOOCs, there has been a lot of emphasis placed on the development of courses, as opposed to how it can or should be used,” chief academic officer Houston Davis said. “Utilization — that’s where the interest of our system, or several of the institutions within our systems, lies.”

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Saga Briggs is Managing Editor of InformED. You can follow her on Google+ or @sagamilena

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