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University of Rochester partners with Coursera to launch first online courses

The University of Rochester (UR) is joining the ranks of accredited online colleges. While the initial plan was to team up with nine other colleges to form Semester Online, which would offer online courses for credit to a select number of students, UR has decided instead to join with MOOC provider Coursera. In a written statement, UR’s interim vice president for research, Rob Clark, said that the school decided that Semester Online was “not the best path for [them].”

Partnered with Coursera, UR will begin its foray into online learning with the classes History of Rock, Confronting the Big Questions: Highlights of Modern Astronomy, and Fundamentals of Audio and Music Engineering. The courses will run from four to six weeks, featuring two online lectures per week.

Currently, the plan is for courseware to be non-credit and free of charge. Classes will be taught by faculty that has earned name recognition in order to, as Clark puts it, “share more broadly our expertise in these areas and to increase visibility for the university and the programs we offer.” Through this partnership, Clark and the university hope to “introduce some of [their] faculty and programs to the rest of the world.”

As of February 28th, 13,000 students have signed up for UR’s initial four courses. By switching to Coursera, UR is making itself available to students throughout the world. Before, the scope of the courses would have been altered and limited, as Semester Online was geared towards local students and those enrolled in the other nine participating schools. This move will hopefully provide global recognition for the courses, faculty, and other amenities offered by UR.

In related news, UR recently appointed Eric Fredericksen as associate vice president of online learning, placing him in charge of the school’s online programming. “Eric’s background and prior experience make him a perfect choice to serve in this newly established role at the University of Rochester,” said Clark. “Effective use of technology in the classroom to facilitate online learning initiatives for residential students, as well as those at a distance, is an essential focus for Rochester and our peer institutions.”


Sources:
“Eric Fredericksen to Head Online Learning Initiatives at Rochester,” rochester.edu, February 5, 2013
“UR alters plans for online education courses,” democratandchronicle.com, February 28, 2013, James Goodman