Our university recently joined a movement that will allow our faculty members to explore an educational delivery system that has the potential to revolutionize higher education. In late May, CU signed a contract with Coursera, a leading provider of massive open online courses (MOOC). MOOCs are free courses delivered via the Internet to potentially hundreds of thousands of students across the world.
Coursera was founded just over a year ago by Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, and with more than 3.5 million registered students, it is already having an impact on how education is delivered. Some of the leading universities in the country use the platform, including Princeton, Duke, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan. Our alignment with Coursera will allow CU faculty to develop courses (or adapt existing ones) for our students and for students around the world.
CU-Boulder signed a separate agreement with Coursera in February, but expanding the scope allows faculty from all CU campuses to develop courses. CU recently joined 10 other state university systems partnering with Coursera.
While CU (like most universities aligned with Coursera) is not now offering courses for credit using the platform, we are excited about the possibilities of developing and delivering content with the potential to improve access, quality and completion for students. As Michael Lightner, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering and co-chair of the CU Task Force on New Technologies, framed it, MOOCs can expand on the scholarship of learning and teaching. Lightner also says MOOCs not only provide the opportunity to share CU teaching excellence with the world, they also give our faculty the chance to incorporate MOOCs into blended courses, with the potential to enhance learning.
CU faculty are no strangers to innovation. We formed the Task Force on New Technologies last fall to capture the collective wisdom of some of our best teachers on our campuses. One of its first steps was to take inventory of all the great things already happening. For instance, several years ago CU professors pioneered the use of clickers in classrooms, electronic devices that let students actively participate in class and provide immediate feedback to faculty about whether they are grasping concepts. Studies have shown clickers improve student learning.
CU faculty also led the way with the Learning Assistants program, in which students who have successfully completed class work with students taking the same course in a future semester. Learning assistants who have been through the class help the current students through sticking points. One study shows the use of learning assistants increased student comprehension from 58 percent before working with learning assistants to 70 percent after. The learning assistants themselves showed 85 percent comprehension after working with students. More than 150 learning assistants are at work in some 15 departments, mostly in mathematics, science and engineering. More than 30 universities across the country have emulated CU's model.
Our faculty are also adept at another innovation that technology allows, flipped classrooms. In the old model, students would do readings and then hear lectures. Flipped classrooms are where students watch lectures online before the class. The focus in the classroom is then on active discussion, problem solving and a deeper exploration of topics. The arrangement with Coursera will allow the potential for students to hear additional lectures from experts in a field at some of the top universities around the world. A recent pilot project on flipped classrooms in the California State System showed increased pass rates from approximately 54 percent to more than 90 percent in an introductory engineering course. The bottom-line goal for all of our use of technology is to increase student learning.
Incorporating MOOCs into what we do is a next step in the evolution of learning and teaching at CU. We don't know for sure where the technology will lead or what it will look like in a year or five or 10. The ground is quickly shifting for CU and for higher education as technology changes how we educate our students.
Professors across CU are having discussions about how best to proceed with MOOCs and other technologies. I have every confidence that our faculty members, who are steeped in innovation and are always looking to improve learning and teaching, will remain on the leading edge of providing a high-quality education. They have been doing so at CU for 137 years, and will continue to, no matter how fast technology changes.
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