Coursera Embraces Online Blended Model with Worldwide ‘Learning Hubs’

Millions of people are taking massive open online course (MOOC) offered by the world’s leading schools through the platforms of Coursera, Udacity and other MOOC providers, but that doesn’t mean their education is only online.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based MOOC provider Coursera recently decided to launch the Learning Hubs program, which adds a social layer to online learning. The Learning Hubs program offers physical spaces to people who sign up for courses to access the Internet while learning alongside their peers and will offer physical spaces in a number of cities.

The Learning Hubs will help facilitate learning in locations around the world, writes Christina Farr of Venture Beat.

Yin Lu, the head of growth and international strategy at Coursera, was inspired by the story of a customer from Ohio, who emailed the Coursera team to describe how she rallied women in her home town to take a course. The group convened at a local community center to learn about business strategy from a professor at the University of Virginia. The majority of the participants were unemployed at the time.

More than 60% students completed the course, and two of the women landed marketing jobs.

Students will not be required to pay additional fees to join the learning hubs program and co-work with friends. Coursera is building partnerships with local organizations that can provide the space and resources for free.

The U.S. Department of State is one of the most prominent partners of Learning Hubs program. Overcoming Faith Academy in Kenya, the Learning Links Foundation, and other global institutions have also signed on. The spaces will typically reside on university campuses or embassies in countries ranging from Moscow to Manila.

“Together we hope that we can identify new models for blended learning and in-person learning,” said Meghann Curtis from the U.S. State Department’s Academic Programs, in a statement to the press.

Coursera is seeking additional partners for the program and the company may hire to develop it more aggressively.

The Learning Hubs will cover 30 embassies, American Spaces, campuses, and other locations globally. The partners will provide the infrastructure that is needed to host a classroom such as reliable Internet access and course facilitators, writes Saikat Basu of Make Use Of.

Coursera is aiming to impart new skills with the blended learning approach. Tying the catalog of courses from the roster of universities who are on the MOOC platform, with in-person classes will allow Coursera to reach new markets.

Coursera’s others partners include Bluebells School International and Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Digital October, Overcoming Faith Academy Kenya (in collaboration with PiCreate and Tucklets.org), Learning Links Foundation, TAPtheTECH, and LEARN. TT, and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).

The new program will help students to join in-person sessions for select courses. They will have live interactions with a peer group, and they will be able to meet with a local facilitator who will be an expert on the chosen subject. It will also mean exposure to courses designed by American universities.