Coursera is on a roll, announcing that a second round of top-tier universities have signed up to use its platform to run online courses. Five of the 17 new additions are outside of the U.S. (stretching from Israel to Hong Kong to Australia); domestic partners include Columbia, UC Irvine, Ohio State, Brown, Wesleyan and others. The ever-popular startup (named one of Time's "50 Best Websites of 2012") now boasts over 200 courses from 33 universities around the world and more than a million registered users. See the full list here.
Not everyone, though, is stoked. The Brown Daily Herald, the campus newspaper, reports concerns that "the courses could represent shoddy imitations of the classroom experience." Some worry that running a MOOC will mean less time with on-campus (and paying) students. Perhaps rightly so: each of its three faculty member who will offer Coursera courses will be teaching one less in-person class at Brown.
Accreditation remains an outstanding question for all MOOCs. It's great that we get to learn for free, but what kind of weight does a "certificate of completion" have? Developments here have been trickling slowly over the past months. Udacity made some buzz last week with the announcement that Colorado State University will accept transfer credit for its famed CS101 Course ("Introduction to Computer Science: Building a Search Engine"). University of Helsinki is offering credit for a Coursera course on Human-Computer Interaction. And the University of Washington is in the process of offering "enhanced, instructor-led versions [of Coursera classes] for a fee that lead to credit and/or a certificate from UW."
Brown's not in that group for now. The university plans to offer for-credit summer session courses through its own (non-Coursera) initiative, reports Eli Okun, a senior staff writer for the school paper, the Brown Daily Herald.
Okun says that most of the people at Brown he interviewed for his story are intrigued by Coursera. "Most have a positive response," he says. "Nobody sees Coursera as supplanting residential education--more supplementing it," he says.
In his piece, Okun quotes school administrators who say they see the Coursera program as great advertising for the bricks-and-mortar school. “So we’re not thinking of Coursera as eventually becoming part of a Brown student’s education," said Brown Provost Mark Schlissel. "We’re thinking of it as a way to show the broader world what a Brown education is like.”