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Coursera: A Revolution, Devolution, or Mad Experiment?

by Jessica Bennett

It seems to me that Coursera is everywhere in higher education news and opinion pieces recently (see the embedded links throughout the piece), so I thought I’d use the inaugural post of the Higher Education in Review News RoundUp to provide a primer on Coursera, its Mass Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and some of the controversies and questions surrounding them.. 


Coursera, a self-labeled social entrepreneurial company, seeks to provide course content from faculty at top universities to any and all that are interested (see Coursera’s Vision).  Additionally, its courses are designed around five pedagogical foundations – the value of online learning,  the role of homework to aid in knowledge retention and learning, repeated opportunities to master content in assessments, the use of peer evaluations in assessments to provide varied and quick feedback, and the opportunity to actively engage material and each other online through multiple formats (see Coursera’s Pedagogical Foundations).  Coursera is free, and allows for varied levels of engagement.  Students who participate fully in a course (completing all assignments and quizzes) may receive documentation of participation from the faculty instructors.

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