Coursera head talks online education
Daphne Koller, a Stanford computer science professor, addressed the purpose and vision of Coursera at Princeton and throughout the entire world. Princeton was one of the first four schools to partner with Coursera, along with Stanford, Penn and Michigan. Within a few months of its launch, Coursera grew immensely and is now partnered with 33 institutions. More than 1.5 million students currently take courses on the site, and it is gaining about 70,000 new users every week.
Koller discussed limitations that prevent people around the world from obtaining education. She explained that Coursera provides a means of receiving education to anyone who has an Internet connection, regardless of geographic location or financial status. She highlighted the rising costs of college tuition and recognized that tuition can put college out of reach for many people.
Koller then spoke to the differences between Coursera and other online learning platforms that are available. Coursera courses are modeled like real, physical courses, with classes beginning on a given day, new material being released daily and homework assignments that are mandatory and graded, Koller said.
She also defended the benefits of an online course versus a traditional, standard lecture. An online course allows students to learn at their own pace, Koller said. As a professor, she said many of her colleagues must pace their lectures to the speed of the average student.
“This allows us to break away from the one-size-fits-all goal of education that has been forced on us by the need to scale our teaching to a large lecture class,” says Koller.
The new platform also incorporates peer grading for writing assignments into the curriculum. According to Koller, peer grading has improved learning outcomes and has proven to be a useful pedagogical tool. This is aligned with Coursera’s goal of having each student engage with the material.
Coursera offers professors statistical analysis to pinpoint exactly where many students are doing poorly and to help them improve the teaching and methods for that particular area. There are also questions that are interlaced in online video content. All students must answer, and their answers are graded instantaneously.
In a question-and-answer session following the lecture, an audience member asked Koller about the cost of Coursera — which is currently free — floating the idea that everything free has a cost at some point. Koller replied that it is possible that a modest sum may be charged to users for certificates of course completions eventually.
Koller’s talk was part of the Wilson School’s “Technology and Public Policy” lecture series.
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