The University of Virginia has announced that it will be joining the Coursera consortium, a massive, open-source, online course platform founded by two Stanford professors. The move follows aggressive steps into the online space by several other prestigious universities in the last year, including Stanford, Harvard and MIT. The UVA governing board cited fear that the university was falling behind cutting edge advances in education as its primary reason for dismissing university president Theresa Sullivan. (After considerable protest among faculty, students and alumni, Sullivan was reinstated.)
Details from the Washington Post:
U-Va. Rector Helen Dragas, who leads the governing Board of Visitors, thought university leaders had ignored the Internet at their peril, like the music industry and media companies before them. In the months preceding her attempt to oust Sullivan, Dragas had read various articles about a coming online “tsunami” that would upend higher education, e-mailing one to a board colleague under the heading “why we can’t afford to wait.”
…Officials from U-Va.’s Darden School of Business first contacted Coursera in April, after learning that the Silicon Valley start-up had attracted venture capital and was expanding from Stanford to other top-tier universities, according to Milton Adams, the university’s vice provost for academic programs. A Darden delegation visited Coursera in early June, a few days before Sullivan resigned.
In the ensuing debate, Dragas singled out an apparent lack of online vision at U-Va., which, she reasoned, seemed to have “no centralized approach” for online education.
That critique gave new urgency to the Coursera partnership. Last week, university officials contacted Daphne Koller, co-founder of the initiative, and negotiations accelerated. U-Va. signed a contract over the weekend. Its participation will require no financial investment from U-Va., except for staff time, and yield no revenue for the university.