According to a recent report issued by the US Department of Education, “classes with online learning (whether taught completely online or blended) on average produce stronger student learning outcomes than do classes with solely face-to-face instruction.”
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are changing the way people view education. And at the head of all the hype is Coursera, an educational platform that offers these free educational courses through a partnership with top universities throughout the world.
According to Coursera’s mission statement:
“We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education. We aim to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.”
On its website, Coursera states that many of the institutions using its platform in conjunction with an on-campus course find students are more engaged, attend classes more often, and perform better.
Coursera believes this outcome occurs through an approach to learning that offers students the ability to learn the material in a multitude of ways so a user can master a subject before moving on to more advanced topics.
In many cases, peer assessment has become an invaluable tool for these courses. The technique not only offers feedback for the student, but also gives the grader another learning experience.
However, Coursera in itself is not a university writes Nick Anderson for The Washington Post. It simply partners with universities to offer these courses as part of a degree program, giving students access to courses in an online platform, free of cost.
A Coursera user would not necessarily find all the courses needed to complete an entire degree program. Richard Levin, the chief executive of Coursera, comments:
“I’ve seen a few holes in our curriculum,” Levin said. “But we are very mindful that we don’t want to be a university. We want to be a facilitator.”
While these courses are used on an undergraduate level, perhaps the most popular use for these online courses is in adult education, allowing adults to furthering careers with new skills, or seeking the skills necessary to obtain a new job.
In an interview with Stephen Ibaraki for IT World Canada, Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng states:
“… In the broadest sense I think an education gives you super powers. With an education you can learn to write software, teach other people, learn to cook healthier food for your children, with an education you will live a longer life … At a societal level I think that we can accelerate the progress of civilization. Governments are looking to MOOCs as a way to level up their populations’ skill set …The world today changes so fast that all of us need regular infusions of knowledge in order to stay current.”
Coursera currently has 8.2 million registered users and 678 courses.