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Heard: MOOCs Growing From Stanford to Georgia Tech to MIT to Udacity and Udemy

by tavopp via flickr under cc

Tamar Lewin of The New York Times writes about the rise of the MOOCs - Massive Open Online Classes - this week. The potential for profit or peril knocks at the gates of Stanford, Georgia Tech and MIT as administrators try out MOOCs but risk controlling the experiments or holding on to star professors. Stanford already lost Sebastian Thrun after their successful course in “Artificial Intelligence” drew 160,000 students from 190 countries. He gave the 23,000 who successfully completed the course a PDF file (suitable for printing and framing) and nearly 248 students - none from Stanford - aced the course. Thrun decided to leave Stanford and join Udacity, a for-profit startup that saw 90,000 students sign up for Mr. Thrun’s new course in “Building a Search Engine.” Udacity is funded by Charles River Ventures, which backed Groupon. It plans to make money by training students in advanced tech skills and, with their permission, connecting them to recruiters.

Lewin writes:

Welcome to the brave new world of Massive Open Online Courses — known as MOOCs — a tool for democratizing higher education. While the vast potential of free online courses has excited theoretical interest for decades, in the past few months hundreds of thousands of motivated students around the world who lack access to elite universities have been embracing them as a path toward sophisticated skills and high-paying jobs, without paying tuition or collecting a college degree. And in what some see as a threat to traditional institutions, several of these courses now come with an informal credential (though that, in most cases, will not be free).

The rise of MOOCs seems similar to the rise of the Mega-church in America that draws tens of thousands of worshippers each week to a service and perhaps broadcasts a star minister over video to parishioners in other parts of town or other parts of the world. Some prefer this large group dynamic. It certainly brings in more money to the offering plate and the potential for growth and power. Meanwhile, others dismiss it as formulaic and appreciate smaller, more intimate church settings. Mr. Thrun said it was hard to go back to teaching a small class of 30 or so students after the experience of teaching thousands. “I’ve seen Wonderland,” he told conference goers in Germany this past January.

Thrun’s departure from Stanford doesn’t mean MOOCs are dead at major tech universities in the United States. Lewin writes:

Besides the Artificial Intelligence course, Stanford offered two other MOOCs last semester — Machine Learning (104,000 registered, and 13,000 completed the course), and Introduction to Databases (92,000 registered, 7,000 completed). And this spring, the university will have 13 courses open to the world, including Anatomy, Cryptography, Game Theory and Natural Language Processing.

“We’re considering this still completely experimental, and we’re trying to figure out the right way to go down this road,” said John Etchemendy, the Stanford provost. “Our business is education, and I’m all in favor of supporting anything that can help educate more people around the world. But there are issues to consider, from copyright questions to what it might mean for our accreditation if we provide some official credential for these courses, branded as Stanford.”


On Feb. 13, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has been posting course materials online for 10 years, opened registration for its first MOOC, a circuits and electronics course. The course will serve as the prototype for its MITx project, which will eventually offer a wide range of courses and some sort of credential for those who complete them.

The Georgia Institute of Technology is running an experimental two-semester MOOC, known as Change 11, a free-floating forum that exists more in the online postings and response of the students — only two of whom are getting Georgia Tech credit — than in the formal materials assigned by a rotation of professors. Next year, Richard DeMillo, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities, hopes to put together a MOOSe, or massive open online seminar, through a network of universities that will offer credit.

Udemy recently announced a new Faculty Project, in which award-winning professors from universities like Dartmouth, the University of Virginia and Northwestern offer free online courses. Its co-founder, Gagen Biyani, said the site has more than 100,000 students enrolled in its courses, including several, outside the Faculty Project, that charge fees.

 via The New York Times
Meanwhile, Steve Kolowich at InsideHigherEd writes:

Two of Thrun’s former Stanford colleagues who conducted similar experiments have spun off their own free online courses into a for-profit venture. The engineering professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, who also ran free online versions of their Stanford courses last fall, have started Coursera, a company that says it wants to make “the best education in the world freely available to any person who seeks it.”

The company currently serves as a platform for eight courses, centering on computer science with some math, economics and linguistics. Five are taught by Stanford professors, two by professors at the University of California at Berkeley and one by a University of Michigan professor. All of the courses are currently listed as free of charge. None will count as credit toward a degree at any of the professors’ home universities.

Stanford appears to be collaborating closely with the professors who are teaching courses through Coursera. To help brainstorm improvements to the quality of these massively open online courses (known as MOOCs), the university is assembling a “multidisciplinary faculty committee on educational technology that will include deans of three schools, the university provost’s office and faculty or senior administrators from across campus,” according to the Stanford News Service.

… More than 335,000 people have registered for the five Stanford-provided courses in the Coursera catalog, which comprise courses in natural language processing, game theory, probabilistic graphic models, cryptography and design and analysis of algorithms. The three non-Stanford courses are in model thinking (Michigan), software as a service and computer vision (Berkeley)….

Registration is currently open for all the courses. Lisa Lapin, a Stanford spokeswoman, said the university retains ownership of the content of the five Stanford courses and that Coursera is serving as a hosting platform. Lapin said she could not elaborate on any more details of the business relationship, citing a policy against disclosing information about “contractual arrangements.”

Via Inside Higher Ed


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MOOC Fluency – some advice for future librarians - The Ubiquitous Librarian - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Jun 27, 2012 11:27

[...] said- obviously attracting 160,000 people to join an advanced science course is an impressive feat. Even if most people didn’t finish, the [...]

Online Educational Resources | E-Learning (A Digital Education Forum)
Jul 5, 2012 15:42

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Jan 17, 2013 7:20

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