The Secret Benefits of Online Learning

The Secret Benefits of Online Learning
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What benefit do universities get who put courses on Coursera? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Daphne Koller, President and co-founder of Coursera, on Quora.

Coursera's goals and priorities are very well-aligned with those of our partner institutions - that's a large part of the reason that we've been able to partner with over 140 of the world's best universities. Every partner brings a slightly different perspective and strategy to their open online programs, and the primary motivation varies across institutions, but there a few major motivations that most have in common:

Global impact: On Coursera, an instructor can teach more students in a single course than they might teach in an entire career on campus. For someone who's passionate about their area of expertise and about sharing their ideas with others, this is an incredible opportunity. Instructors on our platform are often people who have spent their lives achieving mastery in a very specific topic, and Coursera allows them to reach the largest possible audience of learners who are interested in that topic and can benefit from the knowledge that an instructor has to share. Expansion of access also aligns with our partners' missions to benefit society, and many instructors and partners greatly appreciate the opportunity to expand the reach of their scholarship and teaching to populations of learners who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience the benefits of university education.

Global reach: Many of our partners have told us that the expanded visibility from offering courses on Coursera gives rise to significant increases in applications to their on-campus programs. Rice University, for example, noticed a substantial increase in the quality and quantity of applicants to their computer science Ph.D. program after launching several strong computer science courses on Coursera. Similarly, a professor at a university in the Netherlands recruited three fully-funded PhD students who first learned about his work through his Coursera course. Many institutions now see Coursera as an ideal venue to establish themselves as leaders in a particular content area, or to reinforce the overall strength of their existing brand.

Improving teaching and learning: For instructors who are conducting research in education, or who are interested in garnering insights to improve their on-campus instruction, offering a course on Coursera can yield an amazing amount of data. Our platform provides analytics on engagement and results across thousands of learners, allowing instructors to see trends that would be invisible in a traditional university classroom. The platform also provides the opportunity to experiment and refine pedagogy and teaching; for example, an instructor might be able to gradually refine videos, reading assignments, and practice tests to identify the changes that most effectively improve overall student engagement or learning outcomes. The insights that are derived from the public course can then be used to improve teaching and learning in more traditional university programs, and to uncover new best practices. In a sense, we can provide the opportunity to turn the art of teaching and learning into a data-driven science - the type of transformation that has revolutionized astronomy, biology, and many other fields.

Revenue: Universities receive 50 percent of the cash receipts from learners who pay for Course Certificates associated with a course they teach on Coursera. For our partners who offer multiple high-demand, career-relevant courses that have credential value, this revenue can be very significant. As we explore new business models and new distribution channels, we expect that all of our partners will continue to see increasing revenue benefits over the next few years.

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