Surbhi Bharadwaj, Staff Photographer

Access to a Yale education is not limited to Yale students. In recent years, Yale has expanded its offering, including the online Coursera classes which are estimated to have over one-and-a-half million students in 2023. 

Yale Online — the main hub for Yale’s online offerings — is a catalog that brings together a collection of courses offered to degree and non-degree seekers around the world. The website  includes open courses taught at Yale ranging from “Environment Politics and Law” to “The Science of Well-Being for Teens.” It includes non-degree programs with a certificate of completion as well as degree programs offered by professional schools across the University.

According to Sara Epperson, director of the digital education office within the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, the Poorvu Center started developing the website in 2019 and launched it in 2021. Since then, its social media presence has been expanding and a variety of Yale courses have been added to Coursera, an online learning platform. 

“1.4 million learners enrolled in our courses on Coursera in 2022,” Lucas Swineford, executive director of digital education at the Poorvu Center, wrote to the News. “We are on track to enroll 1.62 million learners in 2023, a 15.6 percent increase.”

Epperson told the News that online courses taught through Yale were previously offered through the Poorvu Center website. Some of these courses on Yale Online are also offered on YouTube, Coursera or through the “Open Yale Courses” website. All of these courses are now accessible through the Yale Online website. 

Now if you go on the Poorvu Center website and select “Online Course Catalog,” it directs you to the Yale Online website. 

“Once we gained a lot of momentum on campus, there was a lot of interest in developing open courses, non-degree programs and of course, online programs such as the Executive Master of Public Health,” Epperson said.  “We found it reasonable to create its own website to really elevate the work that’s happening across Yale.”

Other online degree programs on Yale Online, such as Executive MPH, include the nursing practice doctorate offered by the School of Nursing as well as the Physician Assistant Online Program offered by the School of Medicine.

In recent years, Swineford added, the increase in participation is in part due to the Poorvu Center’s social media presence, which has boosted applications for the Online Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner degree program as well as non-degree programs at the Schools of the Environment and Public Health.

Swineford also wrote that the Poorvu Center’s strong relationships with professional school partners have helped support this momentum.

“We’re not just doing work for the Poorvu Center, but we’re trying to elevate the online education that’s across the University,” Jasmine Taylor, digital education project manager at the Poorvu Center, told the News. “And unlike traditional ways of marketing, we want to build a relationship. We want to show [students], take bits and pieces of courses and say, you can learn about Roman architecture, you can learn how to be happy, you can find out how to be a better leader. There are a lot of different courses and a lot of different subjects.”

Taylor said that Yale Online’s social media presence includes quick snippets of Instagram content from faculty to engage with students. 

Swineford said that Yale Online gains a lot of student feedback, and gave an example of an open Yale Online course made in 2009 that still receives regular feedback online.

“In some sense, we can think of Yale Online as the marketing component to all of the excellent work being done around the University,” Swineford said. “Because it is true that marketing online education programs has gotten more challenging, it is a very crowded marketplace. As a university, we believe that our exceptional faculty, our cutting-edge research would really be a benefit to global learners. So we want to do everything we can to try and make that information, make those courses as visible as possible to as many global learners and qualified applicants as we can.”

Taylor added that the Poorvu Center has a student advisory board that provides insightful feedback from students. 

Jennifer Frederick, executive director of the Poorvu Center and associate provost for academic initiatives, told the News that open courses on Yale Online include evaluations to assess learning and get feedback on the student’s experience to “continuously improve offerings.” 

Frederick also emphasized the benefit of offering Yale courses without having to travel to Yale. 

“Also I think students really appreciate the opportunity to access a part of Yale that doesn’t require them to come and be in New Haven. That’s a really powerful thing.”

Psychology professor Laurie Santos, whose “Science of Well-Being” class has over 4.5 million learners on Coursera, has a recently launched second course titled “The Science of Well-Being for Teens,” which has over 110 thousand learners enrolled as of now. 

Santos wrote to the News that she loves getting to teach millions of students across the world and has been humbled by the popularity of her classes.

Santos, whose research focuses on the psychology of happiness and well-being, also added that research has already indicated how beneficial her online courses can be.

“We’ve also done studies to show that this kind of outreach can have a big impact,” Santos wrote to the News “One study found that students who take my online well-being class show significant improvements in their overall well-being. That means we can not just teach students around the world but also change their lives for the better.”

Yale Online courses are offered at /

Esma Okutan is the graduate schools reporter for the News. Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, she is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards studying economics.