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From Dean Meredith Woo

Coursera Online-Learning Partnership

July 17, 2012

Dear Colleagues,

This morning, the University announced an exciting partnership with online-learning pioneer Coursera that has been in the works for several months. Working with University leaders, both the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and the Darden School of Business have been carefully evaluating options leading to this new initiative, which could result in thousands of students having online access to world-class instruction from U.Va. You can read more about the partnership on UVa Today and about Coursera.

This opportunity for the College to partner with Coursera emerged from an A&S deans retreat on June 8 to discuss online educational innovations and kindred opportunities. I asked Philip Zelikow to reach out to Coursera and another group to learn more. Encouraged by what we learned from Coursera, we included other University officials in the dialogue and compared notes with what Darden had learned in separate contacts. VP and CIO James Hilton, joined by me and other A&S and Darden officials, then quizzed Coursera's leaders at length. We reviewed relevant materials. President Sullivan and Provost Simon then gave us the go-ahead to join the group of additional partners announced today.

U.Va. will offer four non-credit courses through Coursera starting in 2013 – three from the College and one from Darden. The three from the College are "How Things Work" taught by Lou Bloomfield (Physics), "Know Thyself" taught by Mitch Green (Philosophy), and "The Modern World: Global History since 1760" taught by Philip Zelikow (History).

Coursera is distinctive in that it is a partner with select institutions, who retain all rights and accountability for the content of their courses. Coursera also provides access to a remarkable platform that features emerging innovations in online assessment tools, the use of social media to form study groups around the world, and other insights. Coursera has two principal objectives: to provide access to quality higher education to students around the world and as a site for developing new and improving techniques to enhance the traditional university experience by working on how to move some material online while freeing up the use of classroom time for even higher value personal teaching.

One of the great advantages for us in this partnership is the opportunity to be involved in the early stages of an ambitious research and development project. We gain access to the latest technology and software and share best practices with other leading universities learning from and experimenting with new methods. We expect other U.Va. professors will wish to offer their courses too, and we look forward to building a process to enable that. We understand that, as this is catching on, Stanford has "flipped" more classes in the last six months than in the previous six years.

We welcome the chance to join in this fascinating educational innovation that may improve the quality of our educational experience on Grounds while making more educational offerings available to a great many people who otherwise would not have access to such opportunities at all.