Coursera, a California-based venture that has enrolled five million students in its free online courses, announced on Thursday a partnership with the United States government to create "learning hubs" around the world where students can go to get Internet access to free courses supplemented by weekly in-person class discussions with local teachers or facilitators.
The learning hubs represent a new stage in the evolution of "massive open online courses," or MOOCs, and address two issues: the lack of reliable Internet access in some countries, and the growing conviction that students do better if they can discuss course materials, and meet at least occasionally with a teacher or facilitator.
"Our mission is education for everyone, and we've seen that when we can bring a community of learners together with a facilitator or teacher who can engage the students, it enhances the learning experience and increases the completion rate," said Lila Ibrahim, the president ofCoursera. "It will vary with the location and the organization we're working with, but we want to bring in some teacher or facilitator who can be the glue for the class."
Early this year, using courses from Coursera and other online providers, the State Department ran a pilot program to open space where people could take free online courses in priority fields, including science and technology subjects, Americana and entrepreneurship.