edX set to host several online, open University classes

Monday, October 5, 2015 - 7:30pm

The University is delving deeper into the age of digital learning with the launch of at least 20 new courses on edX, a nonprofit massive open online course provider, over the next two years.

Finance, learning analytics and data science ethics will be the topics of three of the first courses.

In a press release, University Provost Martha Pollack said Monday the announcement is evidence of the University’s commitment to digital education.

“Michigan is redefining public residential education for the 21st century,” she wrote. “With this new partnership we are accelerating our experimentation in digital learning and reaffirming our commitment to leadership in learning analytics. It’s wonderful to see the growth of faculty-led initiatives that provide new modes of learning and rich opportunity for cutting edge scholarship.”

EdX’s chief executive officer, Anant Agarwal, expressed similar excitement about the University’s decision to partner with the organization during a recent visit to campus.

“We are honored to welcome the University of Michigan to edX,” Agarwal said, according to a release. “As one of the most prestigious public research institutions in the U.S., and a pioneer in digital learning and learning analytics, Michigan will be an important collaborator with edX both in technology and research contributions. We are delighted to now offer Michigan's highly engaging MOOCs, in a wide variety of subject areas, to our 5 million edX learners around the world.”

EdX was founded in 2012 by scientists at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The nonprofit’s courses are free and available to anyone that has Internet access.

This is not the University’s first brush with digital education. In 2012, the University — along with the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Princeton University and two Stanford computer science professors — co-founded Coursera, a for-profit company that offers massive open online courses. The University’s partnership with Coursera will continue.

James Hilton, the vice provost for digital education initiatives, said edX and Coursera will complement each other well.

“EdX and Coursera provide very different models with different sweet spots for experimentation,” he said in a release. “We are thrilled that our faculty will be able to take advantage of both platforms to push the boundaries of discovery.”

Finance Prof. Gautam Kaul will teach “Finance for Everyone: Smart Tools for Decision-Making.” As one of the first professors to pilot Coursera, he created his first MOOC three years ago.

Timothy McKay, a professor of physics and astronomy, will teach a new learning analytics course as a part of the University’s new partnership with edX.

McKay said the new partnership will allow the University to further personalize education.

“At U-M we believe personalization at scale is within reach. We care deeply about enriching the lives of learners on campus and around the world” McKay said. “With edX we will continue to employ personalization and learning analytics to improve the effectiveness of student learning, our teaching and the design of courses and curricula.”

H. V. Jagadish, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, will teach the third course about data science ethics.

Comparative Literature Prof. Silke-Maria Weineck, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, said the University’s move toward digital education is something SACUA has yet to cover.

“We have not had a chance to discuss this at SACUA so I can’t speak to this,” she said. “But as with all technical innovations, there’s always great potential and great risks.”

James DeVaney, the associate vice provost for digital education and innovation, said the University’s decision to expand its digital education system will have an international impact.

“Anchoring our scholarly and practical approach in digital learning and learning analytics, we’ve reached 3.6 million lifelong learners through MOOCs since 2012, and have created the infrastructure and capacity to partner with faculty innovators to dramatically increase Michigan's impact,” DeVaney wrote in a release. “If we continue to harness the best technology and deepen our use of learning analytics, we know the ripple effect of Michigan's academic excellence and alumni network will be felt around the world.”