Proposing an Open Online Course

Faculty interested in teaching an open online course through Penn’s partnership with Coursera may submit proposals to do so.

All proposals must be reviewed by the faculty member’s school, the Faculty Advisory Committee for Open Learning Initiatives, and the Provost. Approved proposals will receive funding and course development support – including teaching assistance, production and technical aid, and help with copyright licensing – from the Provost and the relevant school.

Proposals must be no longer than three pages (not including CV and syllabi) and include the proposed topic, faculty names (with School affiliation, CV, and indication of approval by relevant department chair and dean) and rationale and goals for the course. If possible, include a preliminary syllabus.

For details about the most recent call for proposals, see the Almanac announcement.

Support for Proposal Development

The Center for Teaching and Learning can help faculty think about how to plan an open online course and how to prepare a proposal. With each call for proposals, CTL offers course proposal workshops and faculty may contact CTL for individual consultations.

In general, successful proposals will address the following considerations:

  • Intellectual rationale for teaching the course through Coursera
    Think here about why you want to teach this course in an open online format. What are your goals for this course? What do you want students to learn or be able to do upon completing the course?
  • Anticipated audience for the course
    Consider why participants will be motivated to take this course and the level of background preparation you expect from them.
  • Anticipated length of the course
    These courses may resemble a traditional semester-length class in scope or may be considerably shorter; there is no required length for the class.
  • Proposed means for measuring the effectiveness of the course
    Imagine what you will consider successful outcomes from the course, as well as how you will determine whether or not you have achieved them. This will likely relate to your goals for the course.
  • Innovative teaching methods
    Teaching in this format provides challenges and opportunities. Think about how you will make the most of the format in your course. Consider the relevant issues among the following questions: In what ways do you anticipate conveying material, through lectures or otherwise? What do you intend to ask students to do and how will their learning be assessed? How will you communicate with your students and encourage your students to communicate with each other? CTL’s resources page for open online teaching can help you get started thinking about these issues.
  • Whether you expect to use the course materials in your subsequent on-campus courses
    Reflect on ways teaching this course may influence your Penn teaching. For some this may mean using the recorded materials to move lectures out of the classroom and creating new in-class activities. Others, however, may develop different approaches.
  • Information on teaching experience, including any teaching awards
    Discuss your experience as a teacher to provide a sense of your effectiveness.
  • Budget and budget justification related to course support
    More than a dollar figure, consider how much time designing and teaching the course will require. Think also about how much support you will need, in particular what you will look for from a teaching assistant.