Coursera and EdX, two platforms for Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs)—dubbed by Clay Shirky the "MP3 of Higher Ed"—each announced today that they are expanding their reach with international partners.
Coursera, which has the highest enrollments—2.8 million to date, with 1.45 million signing up monthly—and the most university partners of any platform in the field, is adding 29 partners. That brings their total to 62, and of the new partners 16 come from overseas. The result will be new video and interactive courses available in French, Spanish, Chinese, and Italian. As before, courses will rely on both computer-graded assessments and peer review for humanities subjects.
Meanwhile, EdX, the only nonprofit MOOC platform, founded by MIT and Harvard, is doubling its number of university partners to 14, including partners from Canada, Europe, and Australia. They have only 700,000 signups but still plan to hit 1 billion by 2023.
Although MOOCs are barely more than a year old, the backlash and counter-backlash has already begun, with critics pointing out that only 5% to 20% of those massive numbers of enrollees actually complete their courses.
The international expansion confirms that global universities want to figure out this MOOC thing, but the future of open coursework isn't necessarily about a flat-world digital model. Anant Agarwal, the MIT computer scientist who leads EdX, says we should be talking less about the MOOC and more about the SPOC: the small private online course, which is licensed for use on the ground at an existing campus. San Jose State in Silicon Valley has offered MOOCs for credit from both EdX and Udacity, the third major MOOC platform, in a "flipped classroom" model. That means students are responsible for viewing the video lectures and doing the exercises on their own time, and come to class to get personalized help from instructors and work in groups on projects.
When EdX's Engineering Electronics and Circuits course was offered for credit at San Jose State summer, "the results are staggeringly good," says Agarwal. The percentage of students who passed the course on the first try rose from 60% for San Jose State's traditional version to 91% for the demonstrably harder version, with lectures and exercises that originated at MIT. When used this way, MOOCs look less like a university killer and more like a killer app.
Coursera is one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies in Education.
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