The University of Virginia today announced that it will partner with Coursera, a new educational platform, to offer online classes and explore the development of Web-based courses and course materials.
U.Va.'s College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and the Darden School of Business will be the first schools at the University to offer free "massive online open courses," or MOOCs, through the Coursera website.
Partner schools of Coursera include Princeton University, Stanford University, and the universities of Michigan and Pennsylvania, in addition to a new group of schools announced by Coursera today, including the California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Georgia Tech and Johns Hopkins, among others.
"I believe the University's partnership with Coursera will be valuable for three reasons," said Darden's Dean Bob Bruner. "First, as we at Darden aim to impact the global business world, the partnership will broaden our reach by making Darden thought leadership available to a wider audience, for free. Second, as educators, we must explore every opportunity to better fulfill our educational mission. If digital instruction has the potential to improve the quality of the learning experience for our students, then we must explore it. Third, as we explore the opportunities, we will work alongside some of the world's best universities, creating opportunities for connections and synergies in the pursuit of new knowledge."
The Darden School will offer one, two-part course called "Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses" in January 2013. Professor of Business Administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence Edward D. Hess, who teaches in the business school's entrepreneurship and strategy area, will deliver the two-part course, which will focus on the common growth challenges faced by existing private businesses when they attempt to grow substantially. Part I, a five-week course, will be offered beginning 28 January 2013. Part II will be offered beginning 29 April 2013.
"By offering a free course online, which will be open to a worldwide audience, we hope to give thousands of students who may not otherwise have access to Darden a glimpse into the School's high-engagement learning environment," said Darden's Senior Associate Dean for Degree Programs Peter Rodriguez. "We also hope to better understand how online learning might enrich the experience for our students. We are anxious to see how MOOCs might strengthen what we already do so well at Darden."
Darden uses the case study method to develop its students into business leaders by presenting them with real-life business situations. "Face-to-face interactions with a master teacher are critical as we develop students' know-how (skills for analysis, critical thinking and effective communication) and know-why (character)," said Bruner. "Yet perhaps through online courses, there is an opportunity for students to deepen their mastery in the know-what: formulas, terminology and technical notes that can be studied independently."
Professor Hess, who teaches innovation at Darden, said that ventures like Coursera are exploring new terrain for education. "I hope my course on business growth will reach existing businesses across the world that have survived the start-up phase and are trying to scale into bigger operations. We can make a difference on a global scale."
The University does not plan to offer course credits or certificates to students or public viewers who take U.Va. courses, and the partnership with Coursera includes no exchange of funds. U.Va. owns the intellectual property of each course.
"At U.Va. and Darden, our goal is to deliver the world's best educational experience," said Rodriguez. "As educators, we must stay at the forefront of technology and remain open to fresh ideas and thinking in our ever-changing, bold world."
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