What is Coursera?

August 26, 2012 at 10:31 pm 2 comments

In my previous post, I mentioned that I’m signed up for a class from Coursera.  This is one of many new partnerships that are cropping up throughout higher education.  It currently consists of 16 universities offering 120 courses fully online and free.
The implications of this trend in higher education are potentially world-changing, and not just for those of us within the ivy-covered walls.  If it turns out that on-line education can produce educational outcomes that are equal (or nearly so) to what we get from traditional lectures, then clearly the traditional university model is threatened.  If it turns out that on-line course delivery produces outcomes that are superior to lectures, then the traditional model is dead.
To get an idea of what I’m talking about, check out President Kustra’s blog, and take a look at the TED talk to which he refers.



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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Leslie M-B  |  September 16, 2012 at 5:33 am

    But can you assume that all, or even most, classroom faculty lecture? This post suggests you do. I’ve spent just about my entire adult life in higher ed, including four full-time years helping faculty become more thoughtful about teaching undergrads (and especially with regards to using technology), and I’ve rarely seen faculty lecturing exclusively. Instead, there’s a ton of discussion, lots of activities, and faculty who have direct, personalized contact with individual students. I’m pursuing a MOOC right now, too, and even as the tech evangelist I am, I just don’t see the benefits to learners or faculty.

    It’s the wrong direction for Boise State’s students in particular. As big a fan as I am of our university’s president, Kustra’s back-to-school address was a mile wide and an inch deep in terms of pedagogy and technology, and his blog posts have taken a dismissive tone toward faculty expertise and experience in the classroom. There are technological innovations that have terrific potential for higher education, but MOOCs and their attendant technologies–learning management systems, lecture capture, and self-grading multiple-choice exams–just don’t fall in that category. They replicate the old, outdated lecture model more than they disrupt it. (Want to see open, online courses done right? Check out Jim Groom and Martha Burtis’s ds106 courses at the University of Mary Washington.)

    • 2. boisestategreenguy  |  September 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      You raise an important point, Leslie. Obviously there are as many different classroom experiences as there are faculty to teach them. I must admit I’m a fairly traditional lecturer, although I do find it useful to engage the students in the process.

      As I go through the process of this course, I’m excited about different things I can do in the classroom and how to supplement it with technology. I also put on my “dept chair hat” and find myself asking the question: Are there some courses, or bodies of knowledge that lend themselves well to on-line delivery? Would that free up faculty resources (time) to do a better job of engaging students in the classroom with more difficult/abstract/conceptual material?

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, and thanks for reading along. Throughout higher education, this will be a fascinating discussion.


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