Though Johns Hopkins already offers courses online, Coursera is considered a potential game changer, because its classes will be available to unlimited numbers of students around the world. Some experts believe so-called "massive open online courses" could de-centralize higher education.
Hopkins officials say the courses will offer a mere taste of the education offered to full-time students. "It isn't really comparable to coming and taking a full degree program," said James Yager, associate dean for academic affairs at the university's Bloomberg School of Public Health.
But Yager said that the effort could be "transformative" in distributing public health information from Bloomberg to people who would never be able to attend the school full-time.
In a statement Tuesday, Koller said, "We're fortunate to have the support of these highly-respected academic institutions as we move toward our shared goal of providing a high-quality education to everyone around the world."
Hopkins will not pay to participate in the venture other than by donating staff time and course designs, and the university will not receive compensation from Coursera. If the company eventually becomes profitable, it will share proceeds with the participating schools.
Initial course offerings this fall from the Bloomberg School of Public Health will come in areas such as data analysis, biostatistics and "the principles of obesity economics." Classes could include online lectures, discussion groups and exams.
Though some of the participating universities will offer credits through Coursera, Hopkins will not. Yager said the courses will not offer the level of interaction with professors or the sophisticated evaluations the university demands in for-credit offerings.
But Bloomberg Dean Michael J. Klag said the effort fits his school's mission of "sharing our research and knowledge with the world."
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