On Wednesday online education provider Coursera announced that the University would become one of five universities to begin offering free online courses through its website. Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania and University of California, Berkeley are the other four universities partnering with Coursera.

Coursera — developed in late 2011 by Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng — offers free online courses through professors and lecturers, combining short video lectures with interactive homework and quizzes. The site also includes forums where students can interact with one another.

Over one million students from 172 different countries have enrolled with Coursera, and it just received a $16 million investment from the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, according to a Coursera press release.

Koller said she is excited about working with these universities, according to the press release.

“By partnering with the world’s leading universities, we’re making college-level classes more accessible to anyone who wants to learn,” Koller said.

University President Mary Sue Coleman said in the press release that the University is also enthusiastic about its partnership with Coursera.

“Our faculty members are eager to share their knowledge globally and our students are equally excited about experimenting with this new approach to learning,” Coleman said.

Martha Pollack, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, said Coursera would allow the University to fulfill its public mission to educate and connect with prospective students and alumni who wish to further their education.

“It is a really exciting opportunity,” Pollack said. “One of the most important things we do is create and share knowledge … this is one more way to share the expertise we have.”

Pollack added that Cousera could also complement the experience for University students. She said students might learn basic course material from a Coursera video, freeing up more time for discussion and applied learning in the classroom.

However, Pollack said Cousera could never able to replicate the in-person experience that students have at the University.

“There is a big difference between taking a Coursera course and being on campus,” Pollack said. “(It is a) much richer experience on campus.”

English Prof. Eric Rabkin, who will teach a course on fantasy and science fiction literature through Coursera, said said he hopes this will provide greater access to education.

“I truly believe in the power of education and, frankly, in public education,” he said. “Obviously if we can lower the cost, we can (give) access to what I hope is quality education.”

Rabkin said though new technology in education is becoming increasingly prevalent, it presents a new set of challenges for teachers.

“To use technology to multiply the accessibility of certain skills and experiences to a wider number of people seems to be inevitable and important,” Rabkin said. “Coursera presents a different challenge in syllabus design and course design, and I expect to learn from that.”

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