One million and counting.
That’s the number of open online learning course enrollments Penn reached this month, less than a year after the University offered the first classes with the online learning platform Coursera.
Penn is one of the founding partners and board members of Coursera, which offers free, open-access, non-credit classes to anyone with a computer.
To date, 15 Penn professors from the schools of Medicine, Arts & Sciences, Engineering and Applied Science, and Wharton have shared their knowledge with students from 162 countries around the world. Additional courses will open this summer and fall, including classes from the schools of Design, Law, and Nursing, with 23 faculty members participating.
Deirdre Woods, interim executive director of Penn’s Open Learning Initiative, says the 1 million enrollments equates to about 500,000-600,000 students, since many enrollees have signed up for more than one course.
“They average one-and-a-half to two courses per person,” she says.
Overall, 12 courses have been completed, seven are in progress, and four are set to begin over the next few weeks.
“Some classes are re-offers—courses so popular that we’re running them again,” Woods says, citing Wharton associate professor Kevin Werbach’s “Gamification” class. His course has been offered twice. Around 80,000 students signed up for the first round and nearly 63,000 are currently enrolled, making it the most popular of Penn’s offerings.
In fact, “Gamification” was selected as the pilot for a new certification process called “Signature Track,” in which Penn Coursera students can, for a small fee, sign up to receive a certificate of completion. More than 2,100 students have signed up so far.
Matriculated students, though, cannot get credit for a Coursera course, nor can they use the class to fulfill requirements within their Penn courses of study.
Nonetheless, there’s no question that online learning at the University is growing. Woods says that faculty continue to suggest different types of Coursera courses, and inquire about offering courses in languages other than English.
“We have such a breadth of knowledge that we want to share with the world,” she says. “We’re working to develop courses across all 12 schools.”
To share best practices with other Coursera members, Penn hosted the Inaugural Coursera Partners’ Conference in April, bringing together more than 400 university presidents, provosts, faculty, and staff from 98 institutions to discuss massive open online courses (MOOCs) and emerging MOOC trends in higher education.
Originally published on May 9, 2013