Coursera, an interactive online learning system, will announce on Wednesday that it has secured $16 million in venture capital and partnerships with four major universities. The universities are Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton.
Unlike most video lectures, which are “static” in nature, the Coursera system is more interactive by breaking lectures into segments with quick online quizzes as part of each segment. The segments itself are short, about 10 minutes long, so as to keep the students engaged. Not all Coursera subjects have quizzes however, like humanities and social sciences, where essays are required. On this, Coursera system relies on the students to grade their fellow students’ work.
Coursera also has a global student community feature where students can get help from each other. Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng said as of right now there is no technological fix to prevent cheating and that it is entirely based on an honor system..
Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, the other co-founder, are both scientists. They taught free Web-based courses through Stanford that reached more than 100,000 students. Now, their goal is to make quality interactive online education more accessible by reaching millions of students.
“When we offer a professor the opportunity to reach 100,000 students, they find it remarkably appealing,” Dr. Koller said.
Dr Ng, who is an expert in machine learning, added, “We decided the best way to change education was to use the technology we have developed during the past three years.”
Coursera has no plans for monetization but may decide to offer certificates for sale. The newest investors are from two unnamed universities and from New Enterprise Associates and Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. Besides additional partnerships with elite universities, Coursera has about 1.5 million users. Coursera is poised to dominate the new market in online interactive learning now that they have millions in funding.
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