CU system joins with Coursera to explore MOOC-based learning, collaboration

Partnership aims to foster inter-institutional, faculty-led innovation and provide platform for MOOC creation at all CU campuses
By Staff

The University of Colorado system on Wednesday announced a new agreement with Coursera, a leading massive open online course (MOOC) platform, that will allow faculty members from all CU campuses the opportunity to explore use of the Coursera technology platform for delivering education.

The evolution of MOOCs enables universities to develop and deliver content with the potential to boost completion, quality and access to higher education for students in classrooms and across the globe.

The University of Colorado Boulder first entered a separate agreement with Coursera in February, with four open-access MOOCs set to serve as a pilot project this fall. With the new contract, faculty at all CU campuses – CU-Boulder, the University of Colorado Denver, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus – will have access to the Coursera platform, subject to each campus’s own policies and procedures.

“With this new agreement, CU is positioned at the leading edge of exploring how this quickly developing platform can help us deliver better education opportunities to more students,” said CU President Bruce D. Benson. “There’s a whole new scholarship growing around this movement, and we’re excited that CU faculty now will be able to help lead the way.”

The CU system is one of 10 U.S. state university systems and public university flagships announced Wednesday as working with Coursera to make available online their own faculty and course content, as well as collaborate on existing content in on-campus settings. The other institutions: State University of New York (SUNY), the Tennessee Board of Regents and University of Tennessee Systems, University of Houston System, University of Kentucky, University of Nebraska, University of New Mexico, University System of Georgia, and West Virginia University.

Each system and university plans to utilize Coursera’s platform and MOOC technology differently. Under both CU contracts, faculty members may develop and offer open access – or free – MOOCs via the Coursera platform. Also, faculty members may choose to incorporate material from other Coursera offerings in their courses, but all decisions related to curriculum and credit fall under the faculty’s purview.

CU currently has no plans to offer MOOCs for credit. The agreements also are non-exclusive, leaving the university, its campuses and faculty free to enter into agreements with other companies offering platforms for MOOCs.

“Major state university systems represent an important opportunity to use MOOCs in blended course settings and to advance the scholarship of teaching and learning,” said Michael Lightner, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering at CU-Boulder. “This partnership of Coursera and major university systems is an important step in bringing MOOC courses into mainstream institutions, as well as expanding the community of excellent educators providing MOOC courses to the world.”

Lightner is co-chair of the CU Task Force on New Technologies, a faculty group that last year began investigating opportunities presented by MOOCs and other emerging technologies. This fall, CU campuses will engage their faculties in discussions about the opportunities enabled by the agreement with Coursera.

CU leadership views the relationship as providing new opportunities to show the world the quality of the teaching and learning that take place across the CU system, and to conduct research that will improve the scholarship of teaching and learning, whether in a classroom or online.

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