Apr 18, 2012 11:17 PM GMT
Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor have teamed up with a for-profit company to offer free versions of their coveted courses this year to online audiences. By doing so, they join a growing group of top-tier universities that are embracing massively open online courses, or MOOCs, as the logical extension of elite higher education in an increasingly online, global landscape.
Princeton, Penn and Michigan will join Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley as partners of Coursera, a company founded earlier this year by the Stanford engineering professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng. Using Coursera’s platform, the universities will produce free, online versions of their courses that anyone can take.
The move is perhaps the most coordinated foray into online learning by high-profile education institutions since early last decade, when Fathom (a Columbia University-led for-profit venture into online education that also involved the London School of Economics, the University of Chicago, and Michigan) and AllLearn (a nonprofit collaboration between Oxford University, Yale University, Princeton and Stanford) became casualties in what was then a relatively underdeveloped online learning sector.
Online education, and the technology universities are using in that medium, has matured significantly since then. And brand-name elites, this time with little or no emphasis on making profit or even breaking even, are making a new push toward finding their place in the constellation of Web-based higher education.