Last week, the Massive Open Online Course platform Coursera announced a new partnership with 10 major state flagships and state university systems. While Coursera’s existing university partnerships focus on professors at elite institutions producing and sharing online versions of their courses, these partnerships are different. The focus is on incorporating existing MOOCs and newly created MOOCs—covering basic intro level and general education requirements—into the universities’ offerings, flipping the classrooms at public institutions, using MOOCs as a catalyst for collaboration on teaching and learning, and enhancing access to credit-bearing programs.
One area of innovation that Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller cited is the use of MOOCs for high school dual enrollment programs.
“I’m really excited about it,” she said. “There are so many studies that demonstrate the benefit to students in high school in having access to college-level material. It encourages them to go to college and complete college. But that opportunity has largely been available to the most advanced students at highly endowed school districts that have teachers that can teach college-level subjects. It’s been a very inequitable offering.”
Research suggests that having access to college courses doesn’t just benefit the highest achievers. It can give average performers a way to transition more easily into college and a head start on completing their degrees. It can potentially address the needs of the high percentages of public high school graduates who need remediation when they get to college. It could also save money, which is especially important for low-income students.
The problem has been that many high schools serving underprivileged students don’t have teachers qualified to teach at the college level. There also may be space constraints or other logistics issues with hosting high schoolers at local community colleges.
Koller says that the “self-contained” nature of a MOOC allows it to be facilitated on the ground, within a high school, by an instructor who is “passionate and motivated, but not necessarily expert.” The state of Ohio has already proposed funding the use of MOOCs in this way, to help with college readiness and to address remedial needs.