Brown University is taking its first steps into online education. The Providence, R.I. school will join Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider Coursera to begin offering some of its for-credit introductory classes online, The Brown Daily Herald reported.
Coursera initially approached Brown in April, however the university didn’t begin to formally consider the proposal until after a report from the school’s Ad Hoc Committee on Online Education was delivered to the university provost in June. Both the for-credit and not-for-credit classes will debut next summer.
While the university has yet to announce the subjects that will be offered through Coursera, Brown’s three initial classes will be taught by a classics professor, a computer science professor, and a professor of comparative literature. The limited pilot program to offer online versions of its introductory summer classes will be the first time that the university will award non-transfer credit for courses taken outside of the traditional classroom, reported the Herald.
Many in the Brown community are resistant to online education. A survey sent out in the spring 2012 semester found that 59% of the university’s students were opposed to the school offering for-credit online courses; only 24% were in favor of the idea. The school also utilized a series of undergraduate focus groups to determine how to proceed.
According to the Daily Herald report, many of the students felt that the unique experience of attending an in-person course at Brown could not be replicated online. However, they also felt that they had to take a lot of courses that weren’t ‘Brown’ courses, and that those courses could be taught in an alternative mode.
The report also provided suggestions for ‘flipping’ introductory classes, in which students watch lecture videos at home and collaborate on problems during class, improving and streamlining faculty technology assistance, and offering—in conjunction with other universities—online classes for more obscure language courses.
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