Over the last year, elite American universities have raced to stake out a place in the new world of free online courses — and now, universities around the globe are following suit.
This week, the two largest ventures providing what are known as MOOCs — massive open online courses — are announcing new partnerships with leading universities in Canada, Mexico, Europe, China, Singapore, Japan and Australia, and signing additional American universities.
Coursera, founded by two Stanford University professors, is adding 29 universities — including École Polytechnique in France, the National University of Singapore, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and National Autonomous University of Mexico — to its current 33 partners.
Meanwhile, edX, a nonprofit venture started by Harvard and MIT, is doubling its university partners to 12, adding Rice University, the Australian National University, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and, in Canada, McGill and the University of Toronto.
“We have had an international student community from the very beginning, and bringing these leading universities, from North America and Europe and the Asia Pacific, into the edX organization will help us meet the tremendous demand we are experiencing,” said Anant Agarwal, the president of edX.
The rush into a still-experimental field comes as no surprise to William Bowen, a former president of Princeton and founding chairman of Ithaka, a nonprofit concerned with education and IY.
“One of the characteristics of academia is that nobody wants to be left behind,” he said. “There’s great promise here, great potential, but we need more careful research, and there has not been sufficient attention to that, partly because a lot of the people creating these courses are missionaries, and missionaries are not by and large interested in testing their message.”
Coursera, which has attracted 2.7 million students to its 222 courses since it was started last spring, has recently had growing pains. Both Coursera and edX are moving to help students earn college credit for their free online courses, for a fee, using identity-verified certificates, proctored exams and the American Council on Education’s recommendations, which many universities consider for transfer credit.EdX that began with a single MIT electrical engineering course taught by Dr Agarwal, now offers about 2 dozen courses.