It’s being called the tsunami that commenters have been predicting. Thirteen additional schools have partnered with Coursera, which brings the total number of schools offering free web based classes through the company to 17.
Coursera’s domestic partners will now include the California Institute of Technology; Duke University; the Georgia Institute of Technology; Johns Hopkins University; Rice University; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; the University of Washington; and the University of Virginia. The rapid expansion of companies like Coursera and the joint M.I.T.-Harvard initiative edX was one of the issues that led to the removal, and eventual return, of University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan in June.
The partnerships will allow Coursera to add over 100 new courses to its catalog and will also include three international colleges—the University of EdinBurgh in Scotlathe University of Toronto, and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPF Lausanne), a Swiss technical school. The addition of international partners marks the first time a U.S. based provider of massive open online courses (MOOC) has partnered with foreign universities to provide free classes.
Coursera hopes that the international partnerships will allow it to become the first truly global education provider. Daphne Koller, one of Coursera’s founders, told The New York Times that the addition of EPF Lausanne, which offers courses in French, will open up access for students in half of Africa.
Despite Coursera’s success—since its fall 2011 founding Coursera has raised approximately $20 million, including $3.7 million from Caltech and the University of Pennsylvania, and has seen more than 680,000 students from 190 countries—the company has drawn criticism.
While Dartmouth College director of learning and technology Joshua Kim, loudest of the MOOC naysayers, has centered his criticism on the lack of interaction between the faculty member presenting the lecture and the thousands of students enrolled in the class; others have raised concerns that the rapid growth of MOOCs, and the large audiences they bring, will shift scholarly focus away from research towards teaching.
Criticism has also arisen that MOOCs will create an economic system that turns professors into interchangeable parts. There are also concerns about the academic implications of Coursera’s plan to allow students to grade each other’s work, and what that will mean for the quality of the education being offered. Skepticism of MOOC’s academic quality led George Washington University English professor and blogger Margaret Soltan to coin the term “Click-Thru U” to describe the new instructional model.
However, some professors feel that MOOCs will allow them to better serve traditional students by ‘flipping the classroom’—having students watch videos that cover the basic material at home and using the classroom for more detail-oriented discussion.
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