The free courses are a joint project between Coursera and more than a dozen professional development institutions, museums and schools of education. "We're open for enrollment," Julia Stiglitz, director of strategic partnerships, told InformationWeek in a phone interview. The first online classes will start this summer, followed by others in the fall and winter.
The initiative also represents Coursera's first foray into early childhood and K-12 education, and is the first time the company has partnered with non-degree-bearing institutions. The new courses, which will be offered for free to a global audience and are not limited to teachers, will be listed on Coursera's course directory under the category Teacher Professional Development.
[ MOOCs are the new big thing in higher ed. Do they live up to the hype? Read MOOCs: Valuable Innovation Or Grand Diversion? ]
Initial courses will cover diverse subjects including content development, the common core curriculum, teaching through tinkering, character education, and implementing flipped and blended learning strategies, Coursera said in a statement.
"We've had in-person professional development for decades, regionally and nationally," Bronwyn Bevan, associate director of programs at the Exploratorium, told InformationWeek in a phone interview. The Exploratorium, a hands-on museum of science, art, and human perception in San Francisco, will offer two courses: One around integrating engineering into middle and high school STEM classrooms, and another on integrating tinkering into elementary and middle school.
The Exploratorium's involvement with Coursera is "part of our effort to expand our reach," Bevan said, adding it was exciting to reach a whole new community of educators, learning from and with that community.
"At Coursera, we hope to support millions of teachers around the world in expanding their skills, networks and knowledge, by opening up access to some of the best resources out there, free of cost," Coursera cofounder Daphne Koller said in a statement.
Not Focused on Online Instruction
Despite their rapid growth, MOOCs haven't received universal acclaim, with some arguing that classes containing 30,0000 to 60,000 students aren't the best way to teach. There have even been a few highly publicized rejections of MOOCs by postsecondary teachers.
But Coursera's Stiglitz rejected the idea that the new program was meant to promote MOOCs or even train teachers how to develop online educational content. Although some of the classes will be around online course creation and blended learning, most are not, she said. "Most [of the courses] are around in-person teaching," she explained. "I think we could have an impact in this space."
Schools of education participating in Coursera's teachers hub include the College of Education, University of Washington; Curry School of Education, University of Virginia; Johns Hopkins University School of Education; Match Education's Sposato Graduate School of Education; Peabody College of education and human development, Vanderbilt University; Relay Graduate School of Education; and University of California, Irvine Extension.
Other participating educational institutions include the American Museum of Natural History; The Commonwealth Education Trust; The Exploratorium; The Museum of Modern Art; and New Teacher Center.
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