Stanford partners with Coursera to offer more online courses: It’s what the faculty want

March 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm 9 comments

Two companies have spun-off of the Stanford on-line CS classes, and Stanford has decided to partner with one of them.  Coursera wants to be a platform and let the universities own the content, while Udacity wants to own the content.  The Inside HigherEd article goes on to list the other universities also involved in Coursera, none of which are yet offering credit for the courses.  Support for the courses comes from the peer students: “Teaching staff will monitor these forums, so that important questions not answered by other students can be addressed.”  I met Scott Klemmer tonight who is developing an HCI course with Coursera, and has been developing some interesting peer assessment models for his course.

Audrey Watters interviewed me last week, and in our discussion, she told me that she’s signed up for the Udacity course teaching how to build search engines.  If you recall, they’re claiming that they’ll be able to teach complete novices. Audrey said that she was never asked what her prior background was.  From the discussion forums, she’s found that many of the students are currently Python developers.  So, Udacity won’t ever know if they can teach novices, and the pool of people they are teaching are not all novices.  I understand that the funding model for Udacity makes that unimportant — they want to be able to point recruiters to the top students, no matter where the students start.  It’s too bad — I’d love to know if Udacity achieved those goals.

As I write this, Barb and I are visiting Stanford.  I’ve asked many of the people I visited, “Why is Stanford doing this?  What’s the benefit?”  The answer I’ve had from almost everyone I’ve asked is, “We don’t know, but it’s what the faculty want.”  That’s actually a really interesting answer.  Stanford isn’t creating these on-line classes in order to explore some new student-centric university.  They’re doing this because their faculty want to do it!

Today, we met with Daphne Koller who gave me the only other reason we heard: “To change the world.”

Stanford will offer five more free online courses this month through a new partnership with Coursera, an online education start-up founded by computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, the University announced today. The partnership is the latest in a series of steps the University is taking to explore online education both on and off campus.

Recently, professors in the Computer Science department have pushed the notion of free online classes even further by founding their own online education start-ups. Professor Sebastian Thrun recently founded Udacity, an independent company. Professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng founded Coursera, which will now be partnering with Stanford as the University’s platform for new courses.

via Stanford partners with Coursera to offer more online courses | Stanford Daily.

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