Rob Bruce, director of UNC’s William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education, said the most important element of online education is access.
“I’m thinking of (former UNC-system President) Bill Friday, and he constantly advocated for access, and access to education — distance education really can bring that about,” Bruce said.
The Friday Center offers about 138 courses, which reach about 4,000 students worldwide each year.
Leslie Parise, a member of UNC’s faculty executive committee, said online education is unique because it reaches students who would not otherwise be able to receive an on-campus education.
“Online education should be viewed as something that can further enhance what we are already doing well and bring the best of UNC
to more students,” Parise said.
“I believe evolving technology will drive change whether it is initially embraced or not.”
MOOC providers cater to thousands of students per class by posting all class material online in video form.
The courses rely heavily on peer assessments and online quizzes for grading. They also offer a statement of accomplishment signed by the professor upon completion — but it generally has not transferred to university credit.
“A lot of schools have become involved, and we think it’s worth exploring,” Tresolini said.
On Oct. 29, Antioch University at Los Angeles announced that it would become the first U.S. university to offer academic credit from Coursera.
MeHee Hyun, co-chairwoman of the liberal studies program at Antioch, said working with Coursera allows Antioch to tap into the resources of larger institutions while lowering the cost of education for its students.
Bruce said he enrolled in a science fiction and fantasy literature course offered through Coursera.
“It was well done, and I was impressed with it, but it’s not a course, really,” Bruce said.
“I’m viewing a video, but I’m not on a message board or a discussion forum and interacting directly with a faculty member as I would be with a Carolina Course Online.”
Bruce said UNC is exploring the video teaching method Coursera uses. He said it is important to consider whether the video is for flashy effect or if there is substance behind it.
Maggie O’Hara, the UNC-system director of e-learning, said the system is still in the “exploration stage” of its relationship with Coursera.
“We’re keeping a close eye on what’s happening all over the place,” O’Hara said.
“It’s an exciting time to be in education, both as an educator and a student.”
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