Friday, April 20, 2012

Two Startups Aim to Make Higher Education More Affordable — or Free

Higher education costs have skyrocketed by over 430 percent since the 1980s. Now two startups aim to make college courses more affordable. Coursera offers free online courses from universities like Stanford and Princeton.

Coursera, founded last fall by Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, expands today to include non-Stanford classes and also announces $16 million in Series A funding, in a round led by Kleiner Perkins.

Coursera is adding about 30 online courses from the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Stanford and the University of Michigan. [snip] ... [C]oursera aims to recreate an on-campus experience for virtual students. Its coursers include video lectures with interactive quizzes, homework, interactive assignments and collaborative online forums.

“A professor teaching 100,000 students is almost like a new medium, like moving from papyrus to prose,” Ng told me. “For example, how often do students want to see the instructor’s face? Do they want pre-typed text or should the instructor hand-write the text? We’re still figuring it out. Multiple top universities working on a single site provides the opportunity to leverage resources, and partner institutions can learn from each other about how one ought to teach in this new space.”


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