One of the buzz words to catch my attention over the summer months is that of Coursera (http://www.coursera.com), a company founded by two professors from Stanford University with the intention of making available online courses and content from universities across the world to anyone who wishes to access them – for free. Perhaps the most notable things about this project is the speed at which it has progressed. Launched less than six months ago, Coursera now has courses from thirty-three universities (the majority are from the United States but recently institutions from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – University of Edinburgh and University of London International Programmes – have signed up). You can view the full list of institutions at https://www.coursera.org/universities
At the time of writing this blog post, there are 198 courses available on Coursera (view the list at https://www.coursera.org/courses) which cover a broad range of topics in great depth.
The sign-up process is as simple as a signup can be – full name, username, password and you’re ready to go. You are also asked to subscribe to a basic ‘Honour Code’ ‘to ensure fairness [for] all students participating in Coursera courses’. As of today, Coursera advertises that it has over 1.5 million users signed up to various courses (all in less than six months).
Courses typically contain video tutorials, interactive quizzes and discussion facilities. Lessons are made available across a fixed duration of time (usually four to twelve weeks and usually with one lesson per week) although students can ‘take’ the lesson at a time of their own choosing. Students do not receive credit from the university providing the online course (although some of the institutions will issue a ‘certificate of completion’ – given the newness of this project, such matters are still in development).
Given its impressive beginnings at a time when there are increasing trends for educational institutions to make courses and content available online, Coursera seems to have quickly worked its way forward towards the top of the class. It will be interesting to see how this project evolves and it will be one to watch.