On Aug. 27, Coursera, an online education platform provider, began offering 10 UI-authorized no-fee, no-credit courses to anyone in the world with a computer and an Internet connection.
But that's only the beginning of the conversation on the Urbana campus when it comes to massively open online courses (MOOC).
At the Aug. 27 meeting of the Senate Executive Committee, members said campus leaders and faculty will be given ample opportunity to discuss the impact of the Coursera agreement, how campus expertise can be used to improve the platform and what other courses should be offered.
"It's exciting that there is a lot of energy about this, but there are many issues that need to be sorted out," said Sen. Nicholas Burbules, a professor of education policy, organization and leadership.
Senators will be asked to discuss the initiative at the Sept. 10 meeting following a presentation on the Coursera agreement, signed in July by university leaders.
Barbara Wilson, the vice provost for academic affairs, speaking on behalf of Chancellor Phyllis Wise, who was traveling and unable to be at the meeting, said the chancellor agrees that academic leaders should fully discuss the implications and future of the new partnership.
"There have been a lot of questions that have been raised and we will be working on finding some of those answers," Wilson said.
She said the financial model will have to be considered, as well as which types of courses should be offered. Legal and policy directives also will need to be reviewed and further developed.
In addition to an Academic Senate review, Wilson said matters related to Coursera would be evaluated by a new general policy implementation committee led by Provost Ilesanmi Adesida. New course proposals would be screened by a separate course review committee.
Burbules said that committee would be an invaluable conduit for approving courses and helping set general campus MOOC priorities.
"The Coursera initiative has energized a lot of people who never thought about teaching online," he said, "but it won't be (an opportunity available to) everyone who wants to teach in it. I do hope it will lead to a greater discussion of e-learning."
Adesida said the committee to judge MOOC proposals will be focused on a single question: "How does it benefit the campus?"
Burbules said one of the advantages of the Coursera open source platform is that it can be modified locally to better serve the university's needs.
"Some of our course designs are better (than Coursera's)," he said. "(Coursera) already has changed some of their online platform to match the university's practices. They will help us and we will help them."
Wilson said Wise was pleased that she was able to act so quickly in signing the agreement after consultation with academic leaders. Wilson said the speed of the initial discussion was dictated by a deadline to join Coursera in time for the fall semester.
"We had a very short window of time to get on board," she said. "Consultation was still made, but we had to move more quickly. This was a good example of being more agile as a campus and not getting so bogged down that we can't make decisions."