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

Two companies have spun-off of the Stanford on-line CS classes, and Stanford has decided to partner with one of them. Coursers wants to be a platform and let the universities own the content, while Audacity wants to own the content. The Inside Higher Ed article goes on to list the other universities also involved in Coursers, 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 Glummer tonight who is developing an CHI course with Coursera, and has been developing some interesting peer assessment models for his course.

Audrey Waters interviewed me last week, and in our discussion, she told me that she’s signed up for the Audacity 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, Audacity 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 Audacity 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 Audacity 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-centrism university. They’re doing this because their faculty want to do it! Today, we met with Daphne Keller 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 Coursers, an online education start-up founded by computer science professors Andrew N and Daphne Keller, 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 Th run recently founded Audacity, an independent company. Professors Daphne Keller and Andrew Ng founded Courser, which will now be partnering with Stanford as the University’s platform for new courses.

Deepa Singh
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