Johnson City Press Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Regents, UT systems partner with online provider

May 30th, 2013 9:21 am by Rex Barber

Regents, UT systems partner with online provider


In an effort to increase college student success, educators with Tennessee Board of Regents and the University of Tennessee systems have partnered with Coursera, a provider of massive open online courses.


East Tennessee State University is governed by TBR, therefore students enrolled there will be able to sign up for two classes planned for this fall using the Coursera model. Those classes are college algebra and introductory chemistry for non-chemistry majors.


TBR Chancellor John Morgan said this partnership is a continuing evolution of online instruction within TBR schools.


“Based on what we have heard and what others have experienced with Coursera, their approach to delivery of the material promises to be more effective,” Morgan said. 


The agreement with UT and TBR systems will involve an 18-month pilot program to test Coursera’s technology platform for class offerings.


Besides these Tennessee systems, Coursera is partnering with systems and public universities across the nation.


Coursera Inc. was founded in 2011 by two Stanford University computer science professors and specializes in offering online courses to large audiences at little to no cost. This open model will not be utilized by TBR and UT schools, rather the delivery model is what each system’s leaders want.


Coursera is designed to deliver course material in “chunks” of three, five or seven minutes, Morgan said. Intermediate assessments take place during the presentation of the material which gives “real time visibility” into how students are interacting with the information being presented.


“And that’s something that we don’t really have right now with our online instruction,” Morgan said.


TBR schools already have online courses through something called the Regents Online Degree Program. These new Coursera courses will be offered through this program.


Through RODP, students enrolled at any school within the TBR system can take online courses considered RODP. The course is taught by a faculty member at one of the institutions but the student earns credit through their particular school.


Morgan said he hoped to also be able to use the material developed for use online with Coursera in a physical classroom setting, creating a kind of hybrid course.


If the Coursera partnership is deemed successful, this could potentially lead to more access to higher education, better graduation rates and more Tennesseans with degrees, Morgan said.


“As the world becomes more complex, it’s going to be necessary for workers to have higher level of skill,” he said, adding that research has shown that within the next 15 years 55 percent of Tennesseeans will need an advanced credential to obtain jobs that will be available in this state.


Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has challenged state colleges to raise the attainment level of Tennesseans with degrees to 55 percent by 2025.


Currently, around 30 percent of Tennesseans have degrees, which means meeting Haslam’s challenge will require significant investment from public and private sources, Morgan said.


The Coursera partnership could potentially help that goal, he said.


There is no pricing differential for students who enroll in these new classes taught using Coursera.


Morgan said there is around a $3,000 charge for consulting work by Coursera employees and then $25 per student using the platform.


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