The University of Maryland and Vanderbilt University are taking a different approach when it comes to massive open online courses or MOOCs. The two universities will now collaborate where such collaboration was not possible before the advent of MOOCs. Maryland’s faculty will handle the first leg of a two-part, two-semester course arrangement with Vanderbilt’s faculty teaching the concluding segment.
Coursera MOOC Platform
The MOOC initiative is possible through Coursera, an educational technology company founded in 2012 by a pair of Stanford university computer science professors. More than 80 universities participate and as of Sept. 2013, Coursera topped 4.6 million users, individuals that currently have 437 courses at their disposal.
The Maryland portion of the MOOC sequence will begin in the next academic year with computer science professor Adam Porter teaching, “Programming Handheld Systems With Android.” The following semester Vanderbilt’s Douglas Schmidt, also a computer science professor, will teach “Pattern-Oriented Software Architecture,” offering instruction on how to connect mobile applications to the computing cloud.
Both universities acknowledge that making such a two-part course possible apart from a MOOC would be nearly impossible. Said Schmidt, “Creating such an opportunity for Vanderbilt and University of Maryland students alone would be incredibly complex in a traditional environment. With the MOOC platform, not only is it possible, it will now be available to learners globally.”
And those learners will take these courses for free, although no college credit will be offered. Still, the Coursera MOOC platform brings learning opportunities to students that might not otherwise have one.
Importantly, the Maryland-Vanderbilt tie up brings a pair of highly respective professors from two outstanding American universities together. What’s more, both men have been collaborating on research for more than 25 years, but this will be the first time they’ll be able to collaborate on education.
University of Maryland President Wallace Loh underscored the importance of his school’s collaboration with Vanderbilt through Coursera noting, “By creating interdisciplinary teams and collaborations between institutions, we will create unique learning communities that could not easily be managed outside the MOOC world.”
Three Significant MOOCs
Coursera, along with Udacity and edX, have been disrupting higher education since MOOCs began to take hold in 2012. That disruption, however, is backed by academia including Stanford, Harvard and MIT, and dozens of participating universities.
Harvard and MIT, for instance, launched edX investing $60 million to get that platform launched. Udacity, like Coursera, also has a profound Stanford influence, itself funded by a venture capitalist firm, Charles River Venturers.
Coursera’s funding has also come from venture capitalists, topping $43 million this past July according to Forbes. Coursera also charges students $60 to $90 to take online proctored exams. Those exams are optional, but provide an important measuring tool students may want to have.
Learning and Feedback
MOOCs continue to fascinate students and educators alike, but not all classes transition well from the classroom to the web. That is something Amanda Ripley conveyed in her article, “MOOC’s Ivy League for the Masses?… College is Dead. Long Live College!” story. Ripley sampled several courses finding that most could not compete “with the other distractions on my computer.” She finally found a Physics 100 class that caught and kept her attention, one that offered instant feedback just like users get when playing a video game.
See Also — About Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)