Yale pushes online expansion

With enrollment now open for Yale’s first four courses on Coursera — a platform for massive online open courses, or MOOCs — faculty are leading efforts to expand different forms of online education, funded by two major donations on the horizon.

University President Peter Salovey said the Committee on Online Education, a group of 14 faculty members, will look into and experiment with other forms of online education and the Coursera courses using the donations to find the form best for Yale. The University’s effort to expand its programs in online education will be faculty-driven, rather than mandated by administrators. Though Salovey said the University does not currently have plans to develop its own online course platform, he added that the faculty could opt to appropriate funds in that direction.

“External funding is going to remain important,” Salovey said. “Visionary leadership is going to remain important.”

Salovey said he has spoken with two potential donors in the past three weeks who are both willing to make large gifts to University online education efforts. He added that he cannot disclose more information about the donors or the size of the donations because the gifts are still under discussion. The two donors approached the University about specific gifts toward online education programs, he said, showing a demand for growth in the University’s offerings.

In May 2013, Provost Benjamin Polak announced Yale’s partnership with Coursera, the MOOC platform used by over 80 schools including Princeton, Columbia and Stanford. Currently, Yale plans to offer four courses on the platform that will begin next semester, taught by history of art professor Diana Kleiner, political science professor Akhil Amar, psychology professor Paul Bloom and economics professor Robert Shiller.

But Salovey said his “personal interest” does not lie in investing in MOOCs in the coming years. After mapping out his goals for online education over the summer, he said his first priority is to utilize technology to improve teaching in Yale’s classrooms.

“There is an audience in online courses,” Salovey said. “But my interest is much more focused on how online tools and how digitally based education can be used to improve actual classroom experience on campus.”

Vice President for Global and Strategic Initiatives Linda Lorimer said the MOOC format on Coursera is much like Open Yale Courses — a program the University rolled out in 2007 that allows anyone to watch videos of Yale lectures online — though the new format allows for direct interaction with the course material and other students through online quizzes and discussion forums.

Kleiner, who leads Open Yale Courses, said her past involvement with Yale’s online education ventures makes teaching a MOOC course a natural next step for her.

“Because I led [Open Yale Courses], I’m just intrigued with the whole concept of MOOCs and what it’s going to mean to add more interaction here than we did in Open Yale Courses,” Kleiner said. “It’s hard to know how it’s going to go, what it’s going to be like having thousands of people instead of 80 to 100 people talking.”

Kleiner said she is still finalizing details about progress quizzes and discussion moderators before the course goes live in January.

Coursera was founded at Stanford in 2011.

Comments