Starting this Fall, some Duke professors will offer courses online for free.
Duke announced a partnership Tuesday with Coursera, a California-based online education company founded in 2011. Coursera’s platform allows professors to create online classes with video lectures, quizzes and message boards, accessible to anyone interested in the material. Coursera originally offered courses from the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University and Princeton University. Duke will join these schools along with 11 others from the U.S., Canada, Scotland and Switzerland.
So far, 10 faculty members have committed to upload courses to Coursera, starting this Fall and Spring. In addition to providing publicly available education, the collaboration with Coursera will allow professors to incorporate more technology into their classes on campus.
“Coursera has the potential to substantially influence how we teach our own students on campus as well as to extend the reach of our faculty and show their intellectual strength on a global scale,” Provost Peter Lange said in a press release.
Biology professor Mohamed Noor will offer a course on genetics and evolution in the Spring. Noor said his online course will feed off of his teaching on campus, and vice versa.
“I’ll have students watch the Coursera lectures rather than doing pre-class readings, and in class what I’ll do is supplement those with much shorter lectures on current topics…I can make on the spot,” he said.
Noor added that using online content for his on-campus class will allow time for more interactive and relevant activities during class time. He noted that the involvement with Coursera is still in an experimental phase, and he is open to making changes along the way.
Professors are working with the Center for Instructional Technology to plan for online teaching and redesign course activities for the new medium, Lynne O’Brien, director of academic technology and instructional services, wrote in an email Monday. The Office of Information Technology will also collaborate with CIT to create videos and other digital content for use on Coursera.
O’Brien added that much discussion and planning took place over the summer when many professors were away, so more information sessions will be provided in the Fall, allowing more faculty the opportunity to get involved.
Noor said there is a high demand for free courses, even though people at Duke and other universities in first-world countries might not realize it. There are many people both abroad and in the United States that do not have access to the kind of information available at many universities, he said.