Is the University of Auckland about to join Coursera?
July 30, 2013
It isn’t often an academic like me gets a “scoop”, the chance to say “you heard it here first”. In this case, my close monitoring of the MOOC world has uncovered several threads that when woven together suggest a partnership between the University of Auckland and Coursera is a distinct possibility.
First, some background…. a MOOC is a massive open online course. These courses are offered over the Internet (online), for free (open) and many enrol thousands (massive) numbers of students. Originally created by American Ivy League institutions such as Harvard and Stanford, MOOCs are now being offered by public, private and start-up universities, colleges and polytechnics. To learn more about MOOCs check out my Resources for MOOCs Web page.
Coursera is a MOOC provider, working with its 83 university partners to promote MOOCs, register the students and manage the infrastructure. Coursera is the most widely known and largest MOOC provider; it has the most partners (83), MOOCs (415), students (4 million) and financial resources (million$). Other global MOOCs are edX and Udacity. National MOOC providers also exist in the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, India and Brazil. On 22 July Massey University announced it was joining Open2Study, a MOOC provider developed by Open Universities Australia. I have some concerns about this partnership, but the Massey University Policy on Staff Conduct says I cannot say anything about that.
So what are the threads that suggest the University of Auckland is about to join Coursera? The answer is in three new questions:
Why Coursera? Coursera is big and aims to be bigger. Coursera started with four universities in April 2012 and added more partners in July 2012, September 2012 and February 2013. In a round of recently completed venture funding Coursera announced plans for “continued expansion of university partnerships”. So Coursera is looking for new partners and no New Zealand university is there yet.
Why the University of Auckland? Coursera has an explicit commitment to add only elite universities, in this case defined as members of the American Association of Universities in the United States or “top five universities in countries outside of North America”. The University of Auckland clearly qualifies, ranked #1 in NZ in the University World Rankings.
Why now? Most convincingly, in a 13 July survey Coursera asked its members (including me) if they would be interested in taking a variety of courses from the University of Auckland. Five surveys from this link, still active on 30 July, asked:
Would you take the following course from University of Auckland?
17. Early Renaissance Architecture in Italy: from Alberti to Bramante
23. Introduction to Finance
5. Writing in the Sciences
11. Introduction to Guitar
9. Introduction to Philosophy
Because these same courses were assigned to other universities — both current Coursera partners and not — the conclusion I reach is that Coursera is testing out the appeal of the University of Auckland for its members.
So my guess is that the University of Auckland and Coursera are talking, at least. Obviously no one in the University of Auckland is telling me their plans, so this is all supposition; but if it happens, remember that you heard it here first.
Associate Professor, Information Systems
School of Management