Sunday, March 3, 2013

University of Minnesota to Join Wave of Massive Open Online Courses, Offering Five Classes in Science Fields


The University of Minnesota will create and offer free massive open online courses for students and the general public this year.

The University last week was one of 29 schools to announce it will partner with California-based Coursera to produce classes available for free on the Internet.

Administrators began considering working with Coursera in the fall and asked professors who already had extensive online content if they’d be interested in conducting MOOCs.

The University will offer five science courses in May, which students can already sign up for.

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson said there’s no substantial financial impact on the University as a result of the MOOCs right now.

“We don’t expect any big monetary effect in the short run,” she said. “The production of the MOOCs has been proceeding essentially by volunteer work.”

Although the classes are free, Coursera generates revenue through small fees for course certificates, records and career services that connect employers with students. The University will share any revenue generated from the MOOCs with Coursera.

While some say MOOCs are the future of higher education, others argue online courses take away from the learning experience of face-to-face time with faculty and peers.

Hanson said the MOOCs will be advantageous for both faculty and students, such as allowing faculty to get feedback from a larger sample of students.

“They’ll be able to tell from a massive number of people what has gotten through in the course and what people are still struggling with,” she said.

Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera, said the company has more than 2.7 million students.

“We started Coursera because with the technology one professor can teach not just 50 students in a class but 50,000,” Ng said. “I think there’s a potential to transform higher education and give everyone in the world access to a great education, not just the privileged few.”

The content University of Minnesota professors develop for MOOCs will be the property of the school but can be used in credit-worthy classes on campus.


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