Coursera Learning How To Teach Online

There’s a growing demand from educators for online course packages that create personalized learning environments. Here’s a closer look at Coursera, one of the leading online educational platforms.

Online courses and courses from traditional schools are becoming increasingly popular as more and more learners use the internet to learn, but some students struggle to get the instruction they need. Coursera, a global education startup based in Silicon Valley, is a leading marketplace for online courses from top universities around the world.

The University of Pennsylvania is one of the top universities on Coursera, with over 60 programs available through the marketplace. To understand how Coursera works, as well as why some have used the platform to study, we interviewed Dr. Rangan D’Souza, the Vice President of Talent at Penn.

What, exactly, is the role of a university that advertises courses on Coursera?

Coursera is like an app market. It is a marketplace where a multitude of institutions of higher education—both public and private—offers courses to people around the world in a variety of subject areas. Currently, more than 600 institutions of higher education offer courses through Coursera. We are all commercial enterprises, which means we can and do solicit revenue from tuition.

Can a college offer to host online courses for Coursera?

For every set of students we have and each class, there is a limited number of seats available. To add an extra seat or seat to a class, we would need to pass certification through the payback process. Certification is dependent on the institution’s governance structure and the degree of interaction it has with the institution that offered the course. For example, Penn has a paid registration process for all courses we offer. As long as the university offers a certification, Coursera accepts the courses and their offerings.

Is it the same for students who register through Coursera to earn credit?

Penn’s programs—including the Ivy League, Penn Medicine and its centers and hospitals—have online programming available through Coursera’s streaming program. In this capacity, Penn is providing a monthly program of online instruction and learning, called the 1430 Experience, in association with the University of Virginia. Students who opt to enroll in this program can opt to earn their online degree through Penn and UVA with the ability to take the classes they need to get their bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree.

What is the difficulty students have registering for courses on Coursera?

As you can imagine, in order to register for a course, you need to have a sufficient amount of time to receive the certification necessary to accommodate the amount of courses that we offer. As a result, many students are struggling to enroll in courses in Coursera at times. To accommodate this, we encourage many of our universities to post online registries and have accessibility in place so that students have the means and ability to obtain the certifications necessary to register for a course.

Is it hard to teach online?

Our courses are offered from lecture halls, classrooms, library and labs. Coursera also offers classroom components of online courses such as group discussions, lectures, worksheets and question and answer periods. However, much of the time for our content is actually spent delivering content by one or more faculty members, which is really the key to ensure that the learning is actually appropriate for a small class size. Coursera makes any other cost savings possible through crowd funding, which allows students to pay a small monthly fee and become members of the registeree community. In order to stay financially viable for our universities, we must retain revenue from every registered student.

Are the courses online or are they delivered by traditional instructors?

Both. The experience offered is as close to a full course experience as possible. That means, for example, that students who sign up for an offering will get a transcript after completion with two full pages of graduation requirements, discussion questions and point recommendations, and a guarantee that the certificate they take home will be of the highest quality possible.

Do students have the same power to make notes and progress?

Currently, through the Penn Online initiative, students can use instructional materials, or what we call “ghost notes,” to help assist them in their assessment and degree studies.

Does the quality of Coursera-provided material vary from an institution’s standards?

Absolutely. The answer is yes, however, with a diverse audience, many of the experiences online programs are delivering are not directly mimicking the quality and caliber of traditional courses. If students can study their way to understanding material that they can find in traditional subjects that will help them understand the material, it’s a better learning experience for them.

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