On September 19, 2012, The University of British Columbia (UBC) announced an agreement with Coursera, Inc., a company based in the United States, to provide free, publicly available non-credit courses to a worldwide audience. Courses delivered through the Coursera platform are structured after Massive Open and Online Courses (MOOCs), an emerging delivery model predicated on providing free and open access to courses to large numbers of students. UBC’s non credit offerings that will be hosted on the Coursera platform, scheduled for release in May 2013, include:
- “Useful Genetics” with Prof. Rosie Redfield, Department of Zoology
- “Introduction to Systematic Program Design” with Prof. Gregor Kiczales, Department of Computer Science
- “Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Conversations” with Sarah Burch, Tom-Pierre Frappé-Sénéclauze, instructors for the UBC Continuing Studies Centre for Sustainability
Coursera, Inc. was founded by two Stanford professors, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng. Thirty three highly-ranked universities have announced partnerships with Coursera; a full listing of institutions is available at http://coursera.org. Please see http://www.coursera.org/ubc for more information about these courses.
Why is UBC doing this?
UBC is internationally recognized for its technology-enhanced learning initiatives. By developing and delivering the three non-credit courses through the Coursera platform, UBC will have the opportunity to explore, learn about, and conduct experiments in the rapidly evolving on-line teaching and learning space occupied by MOOCs. Although the University has many decades of experience with continuing education and distance education, MOOCs afford unique opportunities to examine questions that relate to large numbers of learners. For example, how well does crowd-sourcing work for learning assessment? How can the University most effectively implement “flipped-classroom” models to enhance student learning? We believe pursuing these, and related practice-based research initiatives, will lead to improvements in UBC’s distance, blended and physical classroom-based approaches to learning.
The three-course pilot will also explore how MOOCs might further UBC’s outreach commitments (including both pre-university and life-long learning). The Coursera initiative is one example, along with the others showcased at open.ubc.ca, of the University’s ongoing support for open access and open educational practices.
What is UBC’s approach?
MOOCs, such as those made available through the Coursera platform, are an emerging construct and new ground is being broken with each course offering. UBC’s approach will be to conduct a faculty-led, research-informed pilot while developing a community of practice that will engage faculty and other practitioners in a conversation around the experience and outcomes. In Fall 2012, Dr. Simon Bates (Senior Advisor Teaching and Learning and Academic Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology) will assemble and lead a faculty team to identify the key research questions and develop a research and community engagement plan. Dr. Bates will also convene a Council that will focus on ensuring the academic standards of UBC offerings and to capture and disseminate innovations and effective practice findings into other teaching and learning contexts.
Support for this initiative is being provided by the Office of the Provost through the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, UBC Continuing Studies and UBC IT Creative Media. The initiative is new and is expected to evolve rapidly over the 2012-13 Academic Year. If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.