New Coursera chief stresses the ‘wow’ factor of huge audience for free online courses

23 Jun

By Nick Anderson

A little more than two years ago, the emergence of massive open online courses wowed the higher education world. The sheer scale of the response to free classes from star faculty at prestigious universities boggled minds. A single professor was capable of reaching more students — topping 100,000, say — with one online course than she would have drawn in an entire career of lecturing on campus.

Then it was thought that MOOCs, the acronym coined for these massive courses, would shatter the business model of higher education. Then it was thought that the real purpose of MOOCs was to run huge pedagogical experiments to help universities improve teaching for tuition-paying students.

Richard C. Levin, the new chief executive of Coursera, the most widely used MOOC platform, wants to steer the conversation back to what grabbed public attention in the first place: the wow factor.

Sure, Levin said, the emerging technology will help professors stimulate students on campus who are tired of old-school lectures. The talk of “flipped classrooms” and “blended learning” — weaving MOOCs into classroom experiences — is not mere hype.

“But that is not the big picture,” Levin said in a visit last week to The Washington Post. “The big picture is this magnifies the reach of universities by two or three orders of magnitude.”

Levin took the helm of Coursera in April, as the company based in Mountain View, Calif., was turning two years old. An economist, Levin was president of Yale University from 1993 to 2013. He said he was attracted to the higher ed start-up by the prospect of engaging millions of learners around the globe.

“That’s why I decided to do it,” Levin said. “Make the great universities have an even bigger impact on the world.”

[ Full article available at The Washington Post: ]

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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News


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