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…


8 thoughts on “The Coursera Consortium…

  1. This is exciting stuff! And I’m glad to know that VCU is on the eLearning bandwagon, as well. Speaking of which, congrats again on your new(ish) secondary post as Special Assistant to the Provost for the online initiative! 🙂 It really is fascinating to observe this evolution of learning at the university level, as well as to see how leadership is changing as a result. I am anxious to watch the progression play out…

  2. I would certainly be interested in hearing more about this new post and what VCU is doing in terms of their online initiative! Congratulations, Jeff!

  3. My concern with all this is that the students options will begin to decrease, fees will continue to go up, and curriculum content will be at the whim of profiteers. Even given numerous resources for open courseware, if mergers and acquisitions is an important skillset for educational leaders, who will protect the students interests while universities are buying each other up? It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the years to come.

  4. @Katherine, you wrote: “My concern with all this is that the students options will begin to decrease, fees will continue to go up, and curriculum content will be at the whim of profiteers.”

    Not sure I see options decreasing as an outcome at this point…in fact it seems just the opposite is happening. We still have a model where as students we tend to take courses from one school, and follow predetermined curricular pathways to get a degree. This seems like a pretty limited set of options to me.

    The openEd movement (not just courses) is changing this it seems by providing access to a wide range of learning materials / resources to fit nearly any interest. I’m thinking access, adult learners, and lifelong approached to learning. All with increased options.

  5. I enjoyed David Schultz’s article. Many pieces of the corporate university model align with k-12 practices as well.

    I am looking forward to testing out a MOOC for my project but hope course offerings expand to become less elitist and more diversified for the adult learner. Right now the majority of what is offered seems to be advanced level math and science courses, which only draws a specific demographic. Where’s the democracy? I guess more universities need to get on board? My thinking is the MOOC concept will thrive if content is broad in scope and appeals to the common man and women.

  6. @Lindsey Appreciate the comment. I agree that the current course offerings in the open space tend to focus on the science and math…which makes sense to me because these subject matter areas seem more ideally suited to the medium in that instruction / learning is more sequential and can be tracked through skill development (there are right / wrong answers). The Humanities have a bit more ground to cover in terms of getting the assessment and feedback pieces right. We are at the very early stage here…I suspect (hope!) that we’ll see improvement over time.

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