Trending: Open Education – part 2

by Anissa Chitour Hey! Today we're back to discuss some of the newest open course developments in 2012!


Following in the footsteps of OpenCourseWare, in May, MIT and Harvard announced a new collaborative effort, edX, offering the same courses an MIT or Harvard student could take to anyone with an internet connection.  They hope to begin offering courses in fall 2012 and recently secured $1 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. edX is also projected as a research base to further the understanding of how technology and online platforms enhance education and what adaptations and modifications should be made to improve the experience. A big change from the early days of OCW as just an online template to upload information, edX will most likely be an example of the "new" style of open courses, with student interactivity and multimedia integration.

Sebastian Thrun is the current "star" of the open course movement. Since offering his first open course on artificial intelligence in the fall of 2011, he has departed Stanford University to focus more on his work on a Google Fellow and as a founder of Udacity.  In his career, he has helped to push the envelope for Google's research and development capacity, working on the Street View project, the Google X self-driving car, and Google's recently announced Project Glass. According to the New York Times, the first course, jointly taught with Google colleague Peter Norvig, attracted 160,000 students from around the world, compared to the paltry 200 who initially registered at Stanford's campus. As he stated in January, "Having done this, I can't teach at Stanford again." The lure of open access and the entrepreneurial spirit of expanding the education market have proved to be too tempting for Thrun compared to the traditional classroom format.  

Professor Thrun To further the experience with his first open course at Stanford, Thrun founded Udacity in 2012. In less than 6 weeks after opening the site, over 90,000 students registered in his "how to build a search engine" course, and more courses have followed. While they are clearly in the early stages of development, they currently offer 11 courses of varying difficulty and focus. And finally, the open course platform that has been receiving a lot of buzz this July: Coursera. With their recent announcement of 12 new partnerships, the Mountain View, CA startup has massively expanded their course offerings. Originally the brainchild of Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, Coursera will offer over 100 courses this fall and has been a central piece in the conversation of the future of open courses. Involving high-profile institutions – such as Duke, Michigan, Princeton, and Stanford – and offering some open courses in French, to expand to the African market, are major next steps.


However, the dialogue in some forums is focusing on the possibility of revenue: where will it come from and how will it be managed? Certificates of completion, secure exam proctoring, and selling of materials to community colleges have all been suggested as potential moneymakers for MOOC's. But Coursera isn't sure yet. According to Daphne Koller, "If you build a Web site that is changing the lives of millions of people, the money will follow." But the details aren't clear yet. However, thanks to its wide range of course materials and its press buildup this summer before the start of the fall semester, we look forward to Coursera's success, especially in the overseas markets. So, what do you think? Will the rise of open courses mean that mid-tier universities will become obsolete? Will the availability of free or low-cost customizable education solutions mean a decline in demand for traditional university educations? Or are open courses just a supplementary tool for continuing education? The next few years will certainly be interesting to watch. As for those of us here at iversity, we are excited to the advance and improvement of open course technology and the expansion of education opportunities across the globe. We are working on some exciting new ideas for our own projects and we look forward to sharing them with you in the coming months!