Coursera: Game changer in the MOOC phenomenon (now in Spanish too)

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Coursera, MOOCs in Spanish

A giant in MOOCs, Coursera, will now offer courses in Spanish, Chinese, French and Italian. What else is new? (Shutterstock)

“Have computer, will learn,” is the simple rally cry behind massive open online course (MOOC) platform Coursera.

Launched in April 2012, the globally renowned entity announced last week agreements with 29 universities from around the world to help bring their courses free via the Internet.

“One of the most important parts about it is 16 of 29 universities are outside of the United States,” Coursera Business and Community Development Manager Julia Stiglitz told VOXXI. “We now have universities that are going to be teaching in five different languages on the platform.”

That brings the total number of institutions on Coursera to 62 with new courses now available in Chinese, Spanish, French and Italian. More so, the new offerings represent some of the leading schools of business, medicine, engineering and the arts.

The exciting news for the Latino community is the recent schools additions include the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and Tecnológico de Monterrey.

“It’s an opportunity for a lot more people to have access to a high quality education,” Stiglitz said. “That’s the opportunity, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it doesn’t matter your economic situation, that you could have access to really high quality classes. That’s what we’re more excited about.”

Tall leaps in a short amount of time is what Coursera, which is backed by leading venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates, have enjoyed over the last year with more than 2.7 million students registered and approximately 1.45 million course enrollments per month.

While letting students take courses taught at such prestigious institutions as Penn State, Brown University and Vanderbilt,  is monumental, Coursera’s new initiative is being viewed as a game changer in MOOCs, offering students opportunities to receive credit and recognition for their work through Signature Track (providing verified certificates and shareable course records) and transfer credit to college degree programs via the American Council of Education (ACE).

“Right now how we’re looking at it is if you’re a high school senior and take ACE classes, you could take a bunch of courses, get transfer credits, shave off a year or two years of your college and save a lot of money,” Stiglitz said. “Or you can imagine a student who has certain holes in their academic career and they’re able to take these classes, plug in these holes and apply them back to their institution. It’s creating flexible options for students to potentially enter college ahead and support them while they’re there.”

On a global scale, two-thirds of Coursera’s students are international. She points to the company’s second largest market India, where growth in higher education is off the charts. Stiglitz said India currently has 12 million higher education students, with that figure expected to jump to 45 million by 2020.

Within the higher education community, Stiglitz said there’s an ongoing healthy debate regarding the role of online classes in the future. Furthermore, universities are acting as a driving force behind the MOOC phenomenon. She said they are motivated by the ability to connect with each other as well as further serve students.

“A lot more students need access to higher education than currently have access to it,” Stiglitz said. “The cost of higher education for many students in the United States has become unsustainable and the higher education community at large is looking for alternatives and innovative solutions. Coursera hopes to play a part in that.”

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