Coursera, an online education company built by two Stanford professors, has announced that a dozen major research universities will soon join the venture. The announcement is a major boost to online learning initiatives, which have proven extremely popular and likely represent the next phase of higher education. “In the fall, Coursera will offer 100 or more free massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that are expected to draw millions of students and adult learners globally.” While certificates of completion have been the standard way to certify students following MOOCs, some colleges are preparing to offer course credit.
What’s the Big Idea?
Last year, Stanford’s free artificial intelligence course attracted more than 160,000 students from 190 countries. But even Sebastian Thrun, who taught the AI course, recognizes the experimental nature of online learning: “I think we are rushing this a little bit,” he said. “I haven’t seen a single study showing that online learning is as good as other learning.” Still, just as computing technology has revolutionized other fields, online education that is accessible and affordable should begin relieving students of the excessive debt burden placed on them by the current higher-learning culture.