One technological sticking point that faces online education startups like Coursera, which I profile today in MIT Technology Review’s November digital education report, is how to grade assignments from tens of thousands of students. This inability for computers to easily grade short answer questions, essays, or even drawings sets a limitation on course offerings, especially for humanities and social science classes. Right now, Coursera is solving this by setting up a peer-grading system for some classes so students can evaluate each other’s work.
While artificial intelligence has not advanced to a state that the robo-graders can take over, Coursera might end up solving some of these problems in unexpected ways, including by training a new generation of data scientists.
Consider the case of University of New Orleans’ mechanical engineering major Luis Tandalla, a native of Quito, Ecuador. Tandalla, who is 22, took Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng’s wildly-popular machine learning course online through Stanford University last year, and has since taken several more computer science classes offered through Coursera.
Read More: How Coursera Is Training a New Generation of Computer Scientists | MIT Technology Review.
Because of the diminishing return on investment and rising costs of going to college, new online learning platforms have emerged recently, enabling people all over the world to take college-level classes in a wide range of subjects. These online classes differ from traditional online classes in many ways:
- there is no cost to take them
- the only requirement to enroll is an email address
- while taught by professors, they are not affiliated with any existing institution
- enrollment goes into the many thousands of students
In many ways, these classes are better than traditional college classes. Because they are online, you have much more control of their education. For instance, you have the ability to spend as much time as you need in order to gain mastery of the material. In addition, because of the large numbers of students taking these classes, it is very easy to ask and answer questions about the material in the class forums. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the professor won’t remind you when to turn in assignments or watch the lecture videos, so you have to be motivated enough to do the work by yourself.
The two largest platforms providing these types of online classes are Udacity and Coursera.
Read on for a comparison of the two: Online Learning: Udacity and Coursera Comparison | UnCollege.
Sophia Naide, a 13-year-old 8th grader in Northern Virginia, is studying Computer Science 101 with her mother. Is she taking a high school course? No. Is she enrolled in a community college? George Mason University? The Virginia Tech satellite campus? No, no, no. She signed up for a free, online course with Coursera, the online teaching enterprise that recently forged an agreement with the University of Virginia along with a dozen other prestigious universities. Sophia is one of several learners interviewed by Fast Company writer Anya Kamenetz in an article about Coursera.
The article is worth reading because it sheds light on the growing competitive advantage of online classes in the higher-ed setting. Traditionalists, reactionaries and others with a vested interest preserving in the status quo insist that nothing can replace the face-to-face interaction between teacher and student in a real-world, campus setting. But the Fast Company article makes it clear that online courses can do things that conventional classroom courses cannot.
Full Text: Online Learning on a Roll: Picture a Steamroller that Accelerates like a Ferrari | Bacon’s Rebellion.
I’ve held back from giving an evaluation Coursera preferring to wait until I completed an entire course, which I did recently, Introduction to Sociology, which closed on July 20th. This course had 40,000 students enrolled which is consistent with enrollment for a MOOC, though the number of students completing both exams I’m sure was far lower. If you are not familiar with Coursera, Coursera is a joint effort to offer free undergraduate level courses, which are Open, Online, and Massive, a.k.a. MOOCs, by Princeton, University of Michigan, Stanford, and University of Pennsylvania. Recently Coursera, received additional funding and signed on several more university partners including a selection of foreign schools, the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, the University of Toronto, and a technical university in Switzerland.
In this post I’ll outline why I think Coursera has promise and potential, but not necessarily as a ‘fix’ for Higher Ed, but more for the promise it holds to meet other educational needs, other gaps that have yet to be addressed [or discussed for that matter]. And though Coursera has the right formula for bringing online education to the masses – with its sophisticated and user-friendly platform that could morph into a fix for Higher Ed, I think the potential goes further. Though perhaps radical given the perceived current crisis at hand in Higher Ed, why not explore how MOOCs can meet educational needs at a different level?
Full Text: Coursera: Promise and Potential in Unexpected Places | online learning insights.
Coursera, a startup built around the global classroom business model, announced new partnerships with an additional 12 universities, bringing the total to 16 major universities now offering in free, online courses. The larger span of universities now on board brings a range of information technology courses, from the fundamentals of algorthms to machine learning and security.
Along with the original four institutions as part of Coursera — Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and the University of Michigan — Coursera is also partnering with Johns Hopkins University, University of Toronto, University of Illinois, University of Washington, CalTech, Rice University, Duke University, University of California San Francisco, University of Virginia, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Edinburgh, and Ecole PolyTechnique Federale de Lausanne.
Full Text: 16-university consortium expands free, online IT course offerings | ZDNet.
Online education startup Coursera isn’t just revolutionizing learning in the U.S., it’s refashioning higher education for people around the world. Since its earliest courses, Coursera’s student population has been highly international (it’s currently 35 percent domestic, 65 percent international). And, in addition to announcing $6 million in new funding, the startup Tuesday said that it’s adding its first international university partners.
Full Text: Coursera adds first international university partners, raises additional $6M — Tech News and Analysis.
The University of Pennsylvania has just jumped on board the “free online course” train, and has announced that they are going to follow in the footsteps of institutions such as MIT in making their courses available online, in the hopes of reaching out to a broader base of students. The courses are going to be made available through Coursera, an educational based platform that is bringing online classes to students everywhere in an easy and accessible manner.
Full Text: Penn Launches Free Online Courses via Coursera.