Coursera: A Pioneer of Online Education

The recent New York Times article, “Come the Revolution,” describes how Andrew Ng, an associate professor at Stanford, is heading a new program called Coursera that will revolutionize higher education all over the world. As we have seen recently, there has been a huge push to teach more students using technology as a medium. Using technology, teachers become facilitators and are able to educate a huge number of students. In fact there are over one million students enrolled in Coursera already. Coursera, like many other online educational programs, is a collection of videos, lectures, quizzes and links with more information. Although this new project is a path to the future of education, what exactly separates it from programs like Udacity or the Saylor Foundation?

Coursera, much like Udacity, is a free program of online classes taught by professors at schools like M.I.T., Princeton, Stanford, and others. However, Coursera offers a larger selection and much broader material in its courses in contrast to Udacity. Coursera was also much more user friendly was very straightforward. As users scroll down a list of courses and their dates, short introduction videos were available to watch and inform students about the content of each class. These videos made the courses clear and concise.

In fact, Coursera was so easy to use that I signed myself up for a 4 to 5 week course on the Fundamentals of Pharmacology taught by a professor at University of Pennsylvania. Signing up was simple. All I did was fill in my name, email, and password, then I received an email confirming the course. The course does not start until June, so the confirmation email explained that it will inform me when watch lectures and take the quizzes. It is easy to see how over one million people have already enrolled in classes. Ng described how in one of his classes on Coursera, there were around 100,000 students being taught at once, all through the internet. It is cool to think that I will have classmates from all around the world taking this same pharmacology course.

Overall, this experiment of mine will give everyone a chance to see exactly how these new online programs work. We will be able to see what works well and what doesn’t. Programs like Coursera and Udacity are truly blazing the trails leading to the future of education. As education moves online, it is up to today’s students in these programs to help make adjustments and critiques. Education is inevitably going to end up online, as it is a low cost and effective way to educate the masses using current technologies.



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