Vanderbilt to offer free online courses
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If one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2013 is to stimulate your brain, consider enrolling in free online learning through Coursera. Some of Vanderbilt’s leading faculty members are among those offering digital learning beginning this spring.

Coursera, Inc., is an online platform for open-access, non-credit classes, available at no cost to participants. Such courses are commonly known as MOOCs, or massively open online courses. An independent company dedicated to working with high-quality university partners, Coursera was developed at Stanford University in fall of 2011 by computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng. Coursera first began offering courses from partner universities in April 2012 and has since enrolled more than 1.3 million students worldwide.

The first round of Vanderbilt courses will include:

Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative, taught by Jay Clayton, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English and director of The Curb Center at Vanderbilt;

Research Data Management: Best Practice and Applied Methods, taught by Paul Harris, associate professor of biomedical informatics and director of the Office of Research Information;

Innovation Strategy: Managing Innovation and Creativity in Individuals, Groups, and Organizations, taught by David Owens, professor of the practice of management and innovation and director of Executive Development Institute, Owen Graduate School of Management;

Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights, taught by Jamie Pope, instructor of nutrition, School of Nursing; and

Pattern-Oriented Software Architectures for Concurrent and Networked Software, taught by Douglas C. Schmidt, professor of computer science and associate chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Program.

Around 17,000 students already are enrolled in Schmidt’s course and when the course goes live on Feb. 4, that number is expected to more than double. “It would take more than 1,000 years for me to teach that many students face to face at Vanderbilt,” said Schmidt, who has been in the process of videotaping his classes.

“I think the quality and diversity of my class material will benefit from my participation with Coursera, as I alter it in response to questions from Coursera students, who have a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives,” Schmidt said. “The ability to draw upon a digital archive of my lectures will also help me tailor class materials to the particular interests and needs of my Vanderbilt students.”

Clayton agreed that participating in Coursera will stimulate fresh thinking, the sharing of cutting-edge ideas and provide new knowledge for people who wouldn’t have the opportunity to study at Vanderbilt in person.

“At Vanderbilt, we have the luxury of teaching extraordinary students in small classes and of working in close collaboration with undergraduates, graduate students and other faculty.  We will never give up that advantage—it’s what makes Vanderbilt distinctive—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for innovative ways to use new media to enrich our on-campus community,” Clayton said.

Vanderbilt’s Coursera pilot program represents part of the university’s ongoing effort to ensure the experience it offers its students, alumni, faculty, staff, prospective students and community takes advantage of significant new learning opportunities.

For more information about digital learning initiatives at Vanderbilt, visit the Digital Learning website. For more information about Coursera, including a full list of participating institutions and courses, visit


Members Opinions:
January 03, 2013 at 12:39pm
sounds like a great idea!

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