Richard C. Levin, who stepped down as president of Yale University in June, will next month become the chief executive of Coursera, a California-based provider of online academic courses.
Founded two years ago by a pair of computer science professors at Stanford University, Coursera enrolls seven million people in hundreds of free massive open online courses, or MOOCs, from more than 100 partner universities in 19 countries.
Mr. Levin, who has been an adviser to Coursera since January, has been experimenting with online education for years, beginning in 2000 in a partnership with Stanford and Oxford. In 2007, he started Open Yale Courses to make dozens of classes taught by Yale professors available without cost.
“The main thing we will work on is to establish this model so our partner universities feel that offering large-scale MOOCs is an important part of their mission that helps faculty expand their reach, and benefits the world,” Mr. Levin said.
Mr. Levin, who has extensive experience in China, will also work on expanding Coursera’s presence there. Already, he said, China is the second-biggest source of Coursera enrollment, after the United States.
“It’s growing rapidly, and I’m very much hoping my relations with Chinese university presidents and the Ministry of Education will help that along,” he added.
Most of Coursera’s students are over 30, and are using the courses either for personal fulfillment or to improve their job skills. Only 15 percent are enrolled in four-year colleges.
But MOOCs are evolving rapidly: Coursera recently introduced several “specializations,” a series of related courses costing $250 to $500 in which students can earn a certificate that the company believes will be valued by employers.
For all the opportunities they have opened overseas, MOOCs have been controversial at American universities. Some professors say that such courses will widen the gap between elite colleges and others, turning a few professors at prestigious institutions into superstars while reducing faculty at second-tier schools that adopt the courses to glorified teaching assistants. There is also a worry that some professors could lose their jobs.
Source: The New York Times | TAMAR LEWIN