Penn State joins MOOC movement to offer free online courses

February 21, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On Feb. 21 Penn State joined the leading massive open online course (MOOC) platform, Coursera, making it possible for the University to provide courses on a vast scale and open higher education to hundreds of thousands more students than was previously possible.

Penn State joins 33 other well-known institutions around the globe already offering courses through Coursera and will provide immediate open enrollment for its initial classes. Coursera, a for-profit industry leader in large-scale online education, partners with top universities in the world to offer free courses for anyone, with the hope that the world's best institutions will educate not only thousands of students, but millions. Penn State and 28 more institutions now join universities such as Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Stanford and Duke, in providing Coursera course offerings to the masses. With the addition of this group of institutions, Coursera has nearly doubled the number of universities offering courses.

Since Coursera launched in April 2012, the company has registered a total of almost 2.8 million users, with approximately 1.45 million students enrolling in courses each month. Coursera also recently began offering students opportunities to receive credit and recognition for their work through organizations such as the American Council on Education (ACE), which offer the potential for students to receive transfer credit to college degree programs for select courses.

"Penn State will be part of a movement that can provide broader access to higher education," said Penn State President Rodney A. Erickson. "This partnership offers us an opportunity to not only open educational doors to people who may not otherwise have an opportunity, but to also showcase the innovative work of our faculty and their courses."

Penn State's initial massive open online course (MOOC) offerings will focus on five courses (available at Introduction to Art; Maps and the Geospatial Revolution; Creativity, Innovation and Change; Energy, the Environment and Our Future; and Epidemics: the Dynamics of Infectious Diseases.

According to Cole Camplese, senior director of ITS Teaching and Learning with Technology at Penn State, the University's proven delivery of quality online education via its World Campus, an online college, positions Penn State to offer exceptional courses through this platform while exploring new opportunities.

"We have worked to bring some of the most innovative and exciting learning experiences to life on the Coursera platform," said Camplese, who took part in Penn State's decision to join the MOOC movement. "The courses we are offering will enable us to expand our leadership in online delivery by partnering with award-winning faculty to potentially enrich the lives of tens of thousands of learners. The faculty involved in this effort are excited to be part of a future-facing teaching opportunity with potentially transformative effects."

The University plans to use the innovative MOOC platform to advance key University priorities, including showcasing faculty expertise, testing innovative learning strategies, engaging with communities around the world and attracting students to continue their education at Penn State, either in-person or online. In addition, MOOCs also offer high school students an opportunity to pre-shop for college majors and provide existing students with a way to supplement their learning.

“This partnership -- which is really about faculty innovation -- will enable Penn State to test Coursera’s robust learning platform to engage thousands more students worldwide,” said Craig Weidemann, vice president for Penn State Outreach, also a partner in the University's MOOC exploration. “The partnership also allows us to build upon our legacy in online learning by providing access to Penn State’s expertise to students anywhere, anytime.”

Penn State has been a leader in distance education since 1892, when students took courses through the Post Office’s Rural Free Delivery, and in online education since 1998 when the World Campus launched. Today, the World Campus boasts nearly 12,000 students, studying in more than 90 undergraduate, graduate and professional education programs.

Weidemann adds the participation in the expanding MOOC movement builds upon Penn State's longstanding history of innovation and providing access to students.

"The criteria for courses we offer in this global effort are that they need to be robust, in high demand and relevant to the needs of learners," he said. "Each course was sponsored by an academic college and championed by a faculty member who was adept with technology -- ensuring Penn State's platform presence employs cutting-edge tools and highly innovative teaching methods."

With the addition of Penn State's five courses, Coursera will now host over 220 courses from universities at the top of their respective fields, representing some of the leading schools of business, medicine, engineering and the arts.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 20, 2013