Digital evolution: Biology professor Mohamed Noor will offer his evolution course online. Noor photo by Chris Hildreth
Digital evolution: Biology professor Mohamed Noor will offer his evolution course online. Noor photo by Chris Hildreth

Desktop Duke

University will begin offering free courses online.
September 24, 2012

Duke will join a dozen other universities in sharing course content on the Internet through Coursera, an online educational platform. The experiment, which begins with a handful of courses this fall, promises to change education both on and off campus.

The pilot courses—available free through Coursera’s website—will use video lectures and interactive quizzes and assignments to impart material. Lectures will be broken into segments as short as ten minutes, and students will have opportunities to interact through discussion forums and message boards. Courses typically will run from four to twelve weeks. Ten Duke faculty members have signed on to participate in the project, including such popular professors as biologist Mohamed Noor, behavioral economist Dan Ariely Ph.D. ’98, and philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong.

Founded in 2011 by two Stanford professors, Coursera initially offered courses from four universities: Stanford, Princeton, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania. The company estimates it has nearly 1 million users in more than forty countries. The move by twelve additional universities to sign on with Coursera— including the California Institute of Technology, the Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Virginia— is being hailed as one of the most significant developments in online learning, one that could reshape how universities share knowledge.

“Coursera has the potential to substantially influence how we teach our own students on campus, as well as to extend the reach of our faculty and show their intellectual strength on a global scale,” says Provost Peter Lange. He adds that the partnership with Coursera is one of several Duke is exploring to improve teaching with technology.