Koller noted that several MOOC professors from Coursera’s 62 partner universities are translating their online work into their traditional classes, as well. She said that often, students in traditional classes are asked to view their professor’s MOOC lectures for homework, so that class time can be dedicated to lively discussion about the previously viewed material.

Anant Agarwal, president of edX, agreed with Koller, going so far as to describe MOOCs as the “modern textbook equivalent.”

Agarwal explained that edX’s mission is to rethink and re-imagine higher education, and grant access to anyone who wishes to learn.

MOOCs promote “active learning,” as Agarwal described it, and said that the “big data” that MOOCs provide can shed light on impactful student behaviors. Direct answers to professors’ questions, such as, ‘How much time did individual students spend watching videos v. communicating on discussion boards?’ are answered with a few clicks of a mouse.

Duke University has been working with Coursera since last July, and currently maintains approximately 600,000 student enrollments in its MOOCs. Duke Provost Peter Lange explained Duke’s student and faculty perspectives of the partnership.

Lange explained that students enjoy global access, building communities with one another, and preparing for more elevated coursework. He also mentioned that some students are signing up for MOOCs they’re interested in despite feeling that they may not be successful in the course. MOOCs offer a low risk to those students: if they are unable to master course material, or decide that they don’t like the subject matter, they can drop out without detrimental consequences to their transcripts or bank account.

As for faculty members, Lange said that they also enjoy the global accessibility that MOOCs offer, but are particularly interested in the diversity of immediate, valuable student feedback.

Kevin Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin System, noted that MOOCs can be used to not only globally educate individuals, but also to supplement traditional coursework.

While the University of Wisconsin- Madison has recently teamed with Coursera to pilot four not-for-credit MOOCs, the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse has already seen great success in a remedial math MOOC that has newly expanded thanks to a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the remedial math pilot program, after taking the seven-week course, six weeks of which are spent doing online work, 37 of the 38 student participants tested out of remedial math.

Reilly also spoke about UW- Milwaukee’s goal of addressing the evident shortage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors needed to fill jobs in the Milwaukee community. UW- Milwaukee is currently working with Coursera to construct water-related courses to provide a pipeline to gain new employees.

“MOOCs could [help to] draw students into water-related majors,” he said.

Reilly said that MOOCs are a unique platform for advertising, as well. He suggested that MOOCs may help the United States achieve its “completion agenda,” and help in attracting students back to school in the 21st century.


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