As many of you may have read recently in the New York Times and Seattle Times, UW will join Stanford, Penn, Michigan, Princeton and several other top tier Universities in offering free online courses. The Seattle Times reported, "The university has signed a contract to provide an online startup called Coursera with courses in math, computer science, computational finance and information security." The Seattle Times also reported that as of Tuesday, 2,500 students at UW have already signed up for the two courses currently available on that platform - Scientific Computing, taught by Prof. Nathan Kutz, and Information Security and Risk Management in Context, taught by Prof. Barbara Endicott-Popovsky. Both classes are undergraduate classes. While right now the courses being taught using the Coursera platform are free, many course offerings in the future are likely going to be fee-based and potentially quite expensive.
Part of the idea behind these course offerings is to expand UW's ability to provide quality educational experiences to people from around the world, many of whom cannot afford a more formal degree. While it appears the movement to online education is inevitable and provides some tremendous opportunities, it is important for students to remain vigilant about the quality of these courses. It is important that feedback loops that take into account the student experience are incorporated into curriculum development, pedagogical development around student-instructor interaction, and assessment methodology. Contact GPSS if you have any thoughts you would like to share with us on this issue!