Office of the Provost

MOOCs, Coursera and the University of Washington FAQ

What is a MOOC?

It’s a Massive Open Online Course that provides free access to thousands of people in every offering. It generally features a video-based, lecture format with autograded quizzes and/or assignments. It does not have the direct involvement of the instructor for any discussions or interaction. See for MOOCs.

What is Coursera?

Coursera offers a platform to offer MOOCs. It’s a private company created in 2011 by two Stanford faculty members, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller. It deals with universities rather than individual faculty members. Currently, Coursera has 16 members. Other MOOCs include EdX (Harvard, MIT and Berkeley) and Udacity, which deals with individual faculty rather than universities. Please see

Who is a member of Coursera?

Coursera started with four partners (Stanford, Penn, Princeton and Michigan) and added a dozen more institutions, including the University of Washington in July 2012. In September 2012, Coursera added 17 more members. It confines its membership to AAU institutions.

How many classes does Coursera offer?

It has offered only a handful of classes but has scheduled 40 courses through September and will offer 120 classes next academic year. It represents the most successful platform to deliver MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that provide free, peer-interactive classes to the general public.

Who is the average Coursera student?

In its initial offerings, most students came from the United States, India, Russia and other countries. Most of the students are working professionals who hope to change or enhance their current careers.

What are the benefits of Coursera?

  • A consortia of high-quality peer institutions
  • An effective delivery platform for free, non-instructor-led, high-quality courses
  • Has auto-grading and customized study-group features that scale
  • Increases the brand of the participating universities and faculty
  • Serves as a marketing tool for University credentialed programs
  • Free students have translated the course into multiple languages for international use

Is Coursera a mature LMS that will replace Canvas?

Coursera provides a learning management system from a peer-to-peer perspective and does not include many functions needed by instructors. It will not replace Canvas or another LMS at this time.

Are the Coursera classes truly open and can they be adapted by anyone?

No. Despite the name MOOC, Coursera does not offer open classes. It provides a platform for free courses from world class universities that cannot be downloaded and archived by the general public.

Who owns the intellectual property to the courses?

The participating universities and their faculty.

Is the UW part of Coursera?

Yes. The UW signed with Coursera in July 2012.

What will the UW offer on Coursera?

In autumn 2012, the UW will offer four classes on Coursera, free to the general public. Participating academic units include Computer Science and Engineering, the Information School and Applied Math, which also coordinates the Computational Finance Program.

Will the UW offer credit for these free classes?

No. The UW will offer no credential to students who complete the free version of the class.

ACE will offer credit for selected free classes on Coursera soon. However, the University of Washington has not and will not accept ACE credit as part of the UW degree requirements. ACE has independently made the agreement with Coursera, and the UW has not objected to it but has not approved or sanctioned the ACE-Coursera initiative. The UW has not collaborated with ACE on this initiative.

Will the UW offer an enhanced version of the classes?

Yes. The UW will offer enhanced, paid versions of the free classes that may result in a certificate and/or credit. Students will have two options in these classes.

  1. They can take these classes for free in Coursera.
  2. Students can register for a UW credentialed version of the classes (noncredit certificate, credit certificate or credit, depending upon the class). However, students must complete an enhanced, instructor-led version of the class to gain a UW credential.
    • Students will interact with an instructor, complete additional assignments and readings, receive more multimedia material, etc. in the enhanced version of the class.
    • In addition, instructional resources will increase with more students. For example, we will add either a new instructor or additional teaching assistant resources with every 40 students who enroll in the enhanced version of the class.
    • We have all the necessary FERPA safeguards for this program.

Are these classes new?

No. The academic units have offered these classes previously, most of them in an online format. They do not represent new classes but will be repurposed for the Coursera platform.

What approvals will be needed to offer these classes?

No classes or class sections will be offered without the express approval of the faculty and the appropriate academic units. For new online versions of existing onsite classes, the courses will follow the normal approval process for online learning as defined by the UW Curriculum Committee.

Will UW faculty be paid for their Coursera efforts?

Faculty will be paid for course development. They will also be paid if they teach an enhanced version of the Coursera class.

Do all UW faculty have to participate in Coursera?

No academic unit will be required to participate in Coursera. It will be completely voluntary.

How much will the enhanced version of the classes cost?

The courses will be priced comparable to their onsite versions. Noncredit certificate classes will cost about $800 and the credit classes will be priced at the appropriate credit rate. Matriculated UW students will not be able to enroll in these classes more cheaply than current onsite or online classes.

Will registration in a Coursera class result in admission to the UW?

No. Students will register as nonmatriculated students.

Who will fund the UW involvement in Coursera?

These classes will be self-sustaining through UWEO. UWEO will fund the development of the free classes through the registrations in the enhanced version of the classes. No state funds or tuition dollars will be used in the Coursera initiative. UWEO will absorb all financial losses from this initiative.

Who coordinates this initiative for the UW?

As a fee-based program, UWEO coordinates this initiative. All course registrations and fee collection will be administered by UWEO.