Written by: Lisa Fingeroot, The Tennessean
A pilot program beginning this fall at many Tennessee universities and colleges will give students and faculty a chance to use learning technology created by one of the nation's leading providers, and may help Tennessee gain more college graduates.
Schools in the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents systems will partner with Coursera, a provider of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, and use the company's technology and format with the schools' educational material developed by their faculty.
If the experiment works as well as officials anticipate, online classes could help Tennessee increase the number of residents with college education, said TBR Chancellor John Morgan.
Currently, fewer than 35 percent of adult Tennesseans have postsecondary degrees, Morgan said. But Gov. Bill Haslam hopes to increase that number to 55 percent within the next 10 years.
In the pilot program, some new online classes will be created, some existing ones will be made better, and the technology will enable the schools to offer campus-based blended learning classes, officials from both systems said Wednesday in separate conference calls with the media.
None of the Tennessee schools will offer MOOCs, which are traditionally, but not always, free and open to anyone.
The classes offered in Tennessee will cost the same as any other class and are open only to those enrolled in the schools offering the courses.
"Eventually, we may get into the MOOC business, but there is a lot to be decided before that," UT President Joe DiPietro said.
The UT courses on the Coursera platform for the fall are Music 111, masterpieces of music, at UT Martin, and English 1010, freshman composition, at UT Chattanooga.
The Knoxville campus is expected to join the program in the spring.
The UT classes will be offered both online and in the traditional classroom settings, and results will be compared at the end of the 18-month program.
At the Regents schools, chemistry for non-chemistry majors and algebra will be offered in the Coursera format. Online classes will be offered through the existing Regents Online Degree Program, which allows students from anywhere to enroll in Tennessee-based classes for a fee. The on-site classes will be a hybrid class where students use the Coursera format for most of the lessons and go to class periodically to get the personal help they need, Morgan said.
"The beauty of the partnership (with the UT system) is we will be holding hands as we jump into this," Morgan added.
Coursera was founded in 2011 by two Stanford University computer science professors. The company also announced partnerships with nine other state university systems on Wednesday.