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Universities Reshaping Education on the Web

As part of a seismic shift in online learning that is reshaping higher education, Coursera, a year-old company founded by two Stanford University computer scientists, announced on Tuesday that a dozen major research universities are joining the venture. In the fall, Coursera will offer 100 or more free massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that are expected to draw millions of students and adult learners globally.

在线学习领域一场翻天覆地的变化,正在重塑高等教育的版图。作为这种变化的一部分,一年前由两位斯坦福大学(Stanford University)计算机学家创立的Coursera公司周二宣布,12所综合性研究型大学将加入该公司的项目。今年秋天,Coursera将提供100门甚至更多免费的“大规模开放式网络课程”(MOOC),预计会吸引全球数以百万计的学生和成人学员。

Even before the expansion, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, the founders of Coursera, said it had registered 680,000 students in 43 courses with its original partners, Michigan, Princeton, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania.

Coursera的创始人达夫妮·科勒(Daphne Koller)和吴恩达(Andrew Ng)称,即便在扩充前,就已经有68万名学生注册了43门课程,首批合作院校为密歇根大学(Michigan University)、普林斯顿大学(Princeton University)、斯坦福大学(Stanford University)和宾夕法尼亚大学(University of Pennsylvania)。

新一批12所大学将加入达夫妮·科勒(Daphne Koller)和吴恩达(Andrew Ng)开办的在线教育项目。

Now, the partners will include the California Institute of Technology; Duke University; the Georgia Institute of Technology; Johns Hopkins University; Rice University; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; the University of Washington; and the University of Virginia, where the debate over online education was cited in last’s month’s ousting — quickly overturned — of its president, Teresa A. Sullivan. Foreign partners include the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, the University of Toronto and EPF Lausanne, a technical university in Switzerland.

现在,Coursera的合作院校还将包括加州理工学院(Caltech)、杜克大学(Duke University)、佐治亚理工学院(Georgia Institute of Technology)、约翰·霍普金斯大学(Johns Hopkins University)、莱斯大学( Rice University)、加州大学旧金山分校(University of California, San Francisco)、伊利诺伊大学厄本那-香槟分校(University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)、华盛顿大学(University of Washington)以及弗吉尼亚大学(University of Virginia)。上月,在弗吉尼亚大学校长特雷莎·A·沙利文(Teresa A. Sullivan)被罢免——随即很快复职——的风波中,围绕网络教育的辩论也是一个因素。海外合作院校包括苏格兰爱丁堡大学(University of Edinburgh)、加拿大多伦多大学(University of Toronto)以及瑞士洛桑联邦理工学院(EPF Lausanne)。

And some of them will offer credit.


“This is the tsunami,” said Richard A. DeMillo, the director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech. “It’s all so new that everyone’s feeling their way around, but the potential upside for this experiment is so big that it’s hard for me to imagine any large research university that wouldn’t want to be involved.”

“这就像一场海啸,”佐治亚理工学院“21世纪大学教育研究中心”(Center for 21st Century Universities)主任理查德·A·德米罗(Richard A. DeMillo)说道。“一切都很新,大家都在摸索着前进。但这项实验的潜在发展空间如此之大,我无法想象有哪所像样的研究型大学不想参与。”

Because of technological advances — among them, the greatly improved quality of online delivery platforms, the ability to personalize material and the capacity to analyze huge numbers of student experiences to see which approach works best — MOOCs are likely to be a game-changer, opening higher education to hundreds of millions of people.


Worldwide access is Coursera’s goal. About two-thirds of Coursera’s students are from overseas, and most courses attract tens of thousands of students, an irresistible draw for many professors. 


“EPF Lausanne, which offers courses in French, opens up access for students in half of Africa,” Ms. Koller said. 


To date, most MOOCs have covered computer science, math and engineering, but Coursera is expanding into areas like medicine, poetry and history. MOOCs were largely unknown until a wave of publicity last year about Stanford University’s free online artificial intelligence course attracted 160,000 students from 190 countries. Only a small percentage of the students completed the course, but even so, the numbers were staggering.


“The fact that so many people are so curious about these courses shows the yearning for education,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education. “There are going to be lots of bumps in the road, but this is a very important experiment at a very substantial scale.”

“有这么多人对这些课程很感兴趣,表明了大家对教育的渴求,”美国教育理事会(American Council on Education)会长莫莉·科比特·布罗德(Molly Corbett Broad)说。“道路会充满坎坷,但这是一场规模很大的重要实验。”

So far, MOOCs have offered no credit, just a “statement of accomplishment” and a grade. But the University of Washington said it planned to offer credit for its Coursera offerings this fall, and other online ventures are also moving in that direction. David P. Szatmary, the university’s vice provost, said that to earn credit, students would probably have to pay a fee, do extra assignments and work with an instructor.

迄今MOOC没有授予学分,而只是提供一份《结业证明》和一个分数。但华盛顿大学表示,它计划今年秋天为其Coursera课程提供学分,其他网络教育项目也在向这个方向发展。该校副教务长戴维·P·绍特马里(David P. Szatmary)说,要想拿到学分,学生很可能需要交一笔费用,完成额外的作业,并接受导师的指导。

Experts say it is too soon to predict how MOOCs will play out, or which venture will emerge as the leader. Coursera, with about $22 million in financing, including $3.7 million in equity investment from Caltech and Penn, may currently have the edge. But no one is counting out edX, a joint venture of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or Udacity, the company founded by Sebastian Thrun of Stanford, who taught the artificial intelligence course last year.

专家们表示,要预测MOOC的前景如何,或是哪个项目将成为该领域的领导者,现在还为时过早。Coursera公司拥有大约2200万美元的融资,包括加州理工学院和宾夕法尼亚大学的370万美元股本投资,目前看来,该公司可能占据优势。然而,哈佛大学(Harvard University)和麻省理工学院(Massachusetts Institute of Technology,MIT)合资成立的edX,以及在去年教授人工智能网络课程的斯坦福大学的塞巴斯蒂安·特龙(Sebastian Thrun)所创立的Udacity公司,都不容小觑。

Each company offers online materials broken into manageable chunks, with short video segments, interactive quizzes and other activities — as well as online forums where students answer one another’s questions.


But even Mr. Thrun, a master of MOOCs, cautioned that for all their promise, the courses are still experimental. “I think we are rushing this a little bit,” he said. “I haven’t seen a single study showing that online learning is as good as other learning.”


Each university designs and produces its own courses and decides whether to offer credit. Coursera does not pay the universities, and the universities do not pay Coursera, but both incur substantial costs. Contracts provide that if a revenue stream emerges, the company and the universities will share it.


Although MOOCs will have to be self-sustaining some day — whether by charging students for credentials or premium services or by charging corporate recruiters for access to the best students — Ms. Koller and university officials said that was not a pressing concern.


“Every academic has a little soapbox, and most of the time we have five people listening to us,” said Scott E. Page, a University of Michigan professor who taught Coursera’s model thinking course and was thrilled when 40,000 students downloaded his videos. “By most calculations, I had about 200 years’ worth of students in my class.”

“每个学者都有自己的三尺讲台,而大多数时候,只有5个人在听我们讲,”密歇根大学的斯科特·E·佩奇(Scott E. Page)教授说。他在Coursera教授《模型思维》课程,当看到有4万名学生下载了他的视频时,他激动不已。“根据推算,这个班的人数相当于我200年的课堂学生总数。”
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