The Coursera Consortium…

The recent MOOC craze has recently given birth – or so it seems – to emergent leadership positions at some Universities that have jumped on the Coursera train. And at the outset here, I want to thank Jon Becker for putting these on my radar…I know he has some ideas of his own brewing about these changes…so perhaps we’ll see a post from him soon.

Stanford University recently announced creation of the Office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning, which will be led by computer scientist John Mitchell. The online learning initiatives at Stanford appear to be focused on experimentation with the open online course model serving as a way to better understand new pedagogical approaches and methods. The overview for Stanford Online provides some interesting rationale for what they are doing.

The University of Pennsylvania also announced the appointment of law professor Edward Rock as senior advisor to the president and provost and director of open course initiatives. Rock is a leading scholar on corporate law and corporate governance, and has written widely on “the balance of power between shareholders and managers, government ownership, hedge funds, shareholder voting and mergers and acquisitions.” Apparently, these are valued knowledge domains for leading online initiatives at Penn.

I suspect that we will see the rest of the Coursera gang announce – like falling dominoes – similar positions in short order.

This is an interesting development. It appears we may be witnessing the early stages of a strategic realignment / reorganization of institutional power around online courses and learning in elite institutions of higher education.

A piece posted in the early summer at Logos Journal described the collapse of the corporate university, and offers a nice historical arc that serves as a potentially interesting backdrop to the changes at Penn and Stanford. The “Coursera Consortium”…(or the Sweet 16…your call) may well be an early iteration of a new business model for higher education.

“Open and free as a public service” deserves some careful consideration…