Coursera founder discusses online learning, MOOCs


Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller, a Stanford computer science professor, spoke Wednesday at the Education School about the future of online learning and its humanitarian implications.

Koller co-founded Coursera last April with fellow Stanford Computer Science Prof. Andrew Ng. The organization has since partnered with 33 universities to offer Massive Open Online Courses to increase access to education. The University began offering MOOCs taught by University professors for free at the beginning of the spring semester.

Increasing tuition costs and limited access to higher education, especially in continents such as Africa and Asia, spurred Koller to create Coursera. She called the revolutionary technology an opportunity to “convert [education] from something that is the privilege of a few to … a basic human right.”

Coursera currently offers 223 courses for 2.7 million students in 196 countries, according to its website, though Koller said the numbers are always growing.

To accommodate the massive numbers of students enrolled in courses, Coursera has developed a peer grading system, in which students grade each other’s work based on a rubric created by the professor.

Though Koller saw the peer grading system as a valuable learning opportunity for students and teachers alike, a poorly designed grading rubric can create “terrible, terrible results,” she said.

Coursera offers all its courses for free, but to obtain a statement of accomplishment, which confirms a student’s completion of a course, students must pay a fee, Koller said. Financial aid for these certificates is available, she added.

For students pursuing a degree, the American Council on Education is currently conducting a credit assessment review of Coursera to determine whether MOOC credits can transfer when the student enrolls in a university, Koller said. Five Coursera courses in other institutions have already been approved for credit.

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