July 23, 2012

JHU partners with Coursera to offer free online classes

First courses, beginning in fall, will be offered through School of Public Health

The Johns Hopkins University announced last week that it has joined Coursera, an upstart education venture formed to offer high-quality college-level university courses online for free, creating new opportunities for learning worldwide.

Johns Hopkins is one 17 top-tier institutions, including Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan, that have signed agreements with Coursera to make some of their Web-based courses available to a wider student audience without charging tuition.

The universities are offering undergraduate and graduate courses taught by their professors in the arts, computer sciences, mathematics, medicine, literature, history and a host of other disciplines. The courses can include online lectures, readings, discussion groups, assignments and exams.

The first Johns Hopkins courses offered through Coursera will come from its Bloomberg School of Public Health. The school will offer seven classes, including Data Analysis, Biostatistics Boot Camp and Principles of Obesity Economics, beginning in the fall.

“Providing public health content for Coursera is a great opportunity for us and will augment our existing online learning and Open Course Ware initiatives,” said Michael J. Klag, dean of the Bloomberg School. “Sharing our knowledge and research with the world is an essential part of our mission of improving health and saving lives.”

Coursera was founded last fall by Stanford University professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, who wanted to find a way to use technology to bring higher education to more people.

“Coursera is dedicated to creating better educational opportunities inside and outside the classroom, and we could not do it without the blessing and commitment of universities,” Koller said. “We’re fortunate to have the support of these highly respected academic institutions as we move toward our shared goal of providing a high-quality education to everyone around the world.”

The other institutions that are offering or will offer online classes through Coursera are the University of California, Berkeley; California Institute of Technology; Duke University; Georgia Institute of Technology; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Rice University; University of California, San Francisco; University of Washington; University of Virginia; University of Edinburgh; Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne; and University of Toronto.

Coursera is funded by private investors as well as two universities, Caltech and Penn, which contributed a combined $3.7 million. Over the next few months, new courses will continue to be added to the online platform, from current university partners and other top-tier educational institutions.

To date, more than 680,000 students from 190 countries have enrolled in Coursera courses, according to the company. For more information about the initiative, go to coursera.org.