MOOCs Globally Transforming Higher Education

April 10, 2013 - 2 minutes read

University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann moderating at Friday’s conference (photo by Lizzie Schwartz, DP).


This past weekend, the University of Pennsylvania hosted a two-day conference evaluating the past and future of MOOCs, or massive open online courses. MOOCs, specifically Coursera, have been a trending topic of interest for some time.  Daphne Koller along with colleague Andrew Ng established the company Coursera, which uses the latest educational technology to make university courses available online.

Amy Gutmann, the President of UPenn, moderated a star-studded panel featuring Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera, and New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman. The panel found that Coursera’s work has influenced higher education and possibly reflects the future of academia.

“For me, the main takeaway is just the incredible level of excitement and energy and transformation this has engendered in the higher education community,” says Koller.  “It’s a tremendous opportunity to think about how to reshape the ways in which we’re offering education to people around the world.”

Known for its usability and fast feedback, there are several advantages to MOOCs like Coursera. Courses are free, open to anyone, and the capacity to deliver instant responses allows professors the opportunity to better gauge if students understand the material before midterms and finals. Chancellor of the State University of New York Nancy Zimpler sees this as an opportunity to reevaluate “How well are we doing on our campuses?” and “what can we improve on?”

Though MOOCs are slowly emerging as a legitimate alternative for traditional higher education, it is indeed in what Thomas Friedman put, “its nascent stages.”  The best feature of MOOCs is the fact that they are internationally accessible, however, the language barrier remains a key obstacle. With time and development, the program will have the ability to effectively offer premium university courses globally for little to no cost.