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 UKCanadaAustralia, 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.

Dennis Viehland
Associate Professor, Information Systems
School of Management
Massey University

6 responses to “Is the University of Auckland about to join Coursera?”

  1. Roger McEwan says:

    Interesting blog Dennis. After having a ‘chat’ with you via email I decided to do a MOOC and I’m currently doing one through Coursera via the University of Washington (‘U dub’ as the lecturer refers to it). The quality of the course is excellent.

    I also have poked my toe into Open2Study and registered for a 4 week strategic management course after which the lecturer informed the class we will be competent in strategic management. Really??

    I share your concerns Dennis……

    • dviehland says:

      Thanks for the comment Roger.

      Yes, like you I found my Coursera MOOC to be excellent, as described here.

      Like you I am enrolled in an Open2Study MOOC — Introduction to Enterprise Architecture, starting Monday.

      As you point out, Open2Study offerings are 4 weeks + 2-4 hours of student work per week = 8-16 hours total. We expect students to devote 15 hours per week to Massey papers. So by this measure, Open2Study’s MOOCs are equivalent to one week of Massey University study, which is hardly enough time to fulfill your lecturer’s expectations.

      In comparison, an analysis I did for another purpose shows 90% of all Coursera MOOCs are more than 4 weeks (5-19 weeks), with an average of 7.5 weeks per MOOC. Plus student commitment in Coursera courses is expected to be 5-15 hours per week. So, roughly, the average Coursera MOOC requires 75 hours of work (7.5 weeks @ 10 hours per week), five times the expectations for Open2Study. No wonder The Australian calls Open2Study’s offerings “mini-MOOCs“.

      • Roger McEwan says:

        Thanks Dennis for crunching the numbers, they make a strong point about the positioning of Open2Study. They appear to be similar in concept to movie trailers as opposed to the Coursera approach which is to provide the whole movie (with everything but the popcorn).

        If this is the position then I think the marketing and communication around this needs to be clearly articulated to students otherwise there is a risk of over promising and under delivering. Often a fatal approach in business…

  2. david pauleen says:

    Good one, Dennis.
    I guess you do not have to say much to say it all.

  3. Bach says:

    Take a tonnes of Cousera courses, eventually I’ve achieved only a few certificates (or Statement of Accomplishment) so far, I can’t remember how many courses I’ve dropped out in the beginning and in the middle as well.
    However, if UoA joins Coursera, it’s worth to spend time to compare the differences between the two same courses with different providers.
    Thanks for the information.

  4. Katherine says:

    Great article. I completed an Open2Study course to see what they were about. The gamification is a bit immature. You get awarded things like antique brass horns for completing certain aspects of the course. I also have security concerns with the site. I got a virtural reward for sharing something from my course on G+, which I actually didn’t do. When I raised it with the company, they fobbed it off.

    I haven’t tried a Coursera course, but think Khan Academy and Codeacademy are great examples of online courses, particularly Codeacademy’s Hour of Code app, which provides sample content of an actual online course. This is a great idea.

    It’s interesting to consider what other universities are doing in this space. Did you know that Stanford put courses on iTunes?

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The Other Side of Business

Welcome to The Other Side of Business. This is a blog that collects and distributes the opinion and analysis of staff and students from the School of Management, College of Business, Massey University. The aim is to post once or twice a month on current issues in business... Read more