U of T moves online

In July, the University of Toronto signed up with Coursera, a US-based company offering open online courses. As a partner of Coursera, U of T will join a trend led by top US schools such as Stanford and Princeton.

The US-based company offers what are known as “MOOCs”: massive open online courses. This is a growing trend in which schools offer free online courses to students who sign up. U of T is currently the only Canadian
university among 11 international schools announced as new partners of Coursera.

“It is just a way of getting our courses and our content and our great instructors in front of the whole world,” says Cheryl Misak, the provost of U of T.

U of T will offer five online courses this school year, each lasting between four and six weeks. Several prominent professors have volunteered to teach courses ranging in subject matter from computer science to social work.

Over one million students have enrolled in online courses with Coursera so far. Maxim Jean
Louis, the president of distance education network Contact North, says the  demographic that will benefit the most from online courses of this type is the growing middle class in developing countries.

Currently, Coursera does not have any revenue source. Several suggestions have been made for “premium content” that could have fees, including receiving actual credentials.

George Siemens, an Athabasca University researcher who was involved in the creation of the course, says the aim of the course is to try to make the best use of the technology space. He criticized Canada as a “laggard in open
access learning”.

U of T’s move into the field may be a sign that Canadian educators are starting to embrace the

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