Penn State is certainly making moves to adapt to evolving education trends.
The university’s latest initiative will offer more online learning opportunities to Penn State students and the general public.
Penn State announced Thursday that it will offer Coursera, a massive open online course (MOOC) platform founded by two professors from Stanford University.
These courses differ from online classes that are already offered on Penn State’s campuses, as well as Penn State World Campus because students enrolling in a Coursera course are not full-paying members of the institution, don’t have direct access to faculty and won’t receive credit associated with the courses. These students are simply getting access to course materials and learning in an environment designed by Penn State faculty. In Coursera courses, students see video snippets of faculty talking about concepts, and though they interact with other students, they rarely do with the instructor. These courses can be taken by high school students, senior citizens or anyone in between.
While these courses will not benefit college-bound high school students looking specifically to earn credits for a degree, it is a method for those students to get a feel for what a college course will be like. These courses will not be a completely realistic idea of what a course will be like in college, but it will be beneficial for high school students interested in perusing classes they might take after graduating.
And beyodg helping college-bound individuals, these courses will benefit others of all ages looking to learn new skills. It is big for many of them to even be learning from an instructor — the credit is not necessarily important.
There are flaws to the open online course model system. One of our biggest concerns is that it gives an unrealistic depiction of what to expect in a Penn State course.
It might be discouraging for a potential student to take a course and not be able to interact with the instructor. Professor-student interaction is crucial to learning and succeeding at Penn State. Individuals in the Coursera course may not want to attend Penn State in the future if they are discouraged by the lack of resources, specifically not being able to ask questions in the same way you might in a classroom.
As of right now, the success of the courses is unknown, but if nothing else, this system will help Penn State keep pace with other renowned universities.
Penn State just needs to make sure it is clear that these courses are not typical classes at the university.