With over 7 million users, Coursera’s online community has grown exponentially since its launch in 2012. Instructors and students alike tell us that Coursera’s robust and stimulating online community is an essential part of their learning experience—as is the support Coursera is able to give to that community.
To that end, Coursera is delighted to welcome Amber Saloner Tennant as VP of User and Community Operations, who joins us this week to take on the challenge of managing and scaling community and user support. At Coursera, Amber will lead all community and user support efforts, including student and instructor support, Coursera’s Community TA program, and more.
Amber joins Coursera following a three-year term at Facebook, where she first ran Mobile and Product Operations and later served as Director of User Operations. Amber’s team of 250 people provided support for Facebook’s 1 billion+ users. Using a creative combination of crowd-sourcing, out-sourcing, and automation, Amber managed to make Facebook’s support process much more efficient while scaling it out considerably.
Amber earned a B.A. and M.B.A. from Stanford and participated in Teach for America. Read on to learn more about her plans for Coursera’s community.
What interests you about Coursera and/or online education?
My first job after college was teaching elementary school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn with Teach For America. Though I knew what the “achievement gap” meant academically, it wasn’t until I entered my classroom that I truly understood the impact it had. My students were smart and eager fourth graders who should have been able to read age-appropriate literature like Harry Potter, but struggled through very basic texts like See Spot Run. Their educational prospects, as is so often the case, were largely determined by where they were born. Though high quality education is a basic human right, the reality today is that it is only available to a lucky minority. This situation needs to change, and I believe Coursera is the platform to facilitate this shift in access. I am thrilled and humbled to join their incredibly talented and committed team, and help them work towards a world where an excellent education is available to all.
What are you looking forward to focusing on at Coursera?
I fundamentally believe education has the power to change people’s life trajectories and make the world a better place. I am delighted to work with the Coursera community to make their experience as positive, engaging, and rewarding as possible.
Courserians, please welcome Amber in the comments below!
Below is a blog entry written by Dr. Ro Kinzler, Senior Director of Science Education at the American Museum of Natural about their new course “The Dynamic Earth: A Course for Educators”, starting April 14.
Last Spring the American Museum of Natural History created three Coursera courses to bring some of the most exciting developments in science to educators, and to provide opportunities for bringing that excitement to classrooms and other educational settings. We were thrilled – and rather awed! – when more than 30,000 people from over 90 countries enrolled in our three Teacher Professional Development science courses: “Genetics and Society”, “The Dynamic Earth" and "Evolution”.
This Monday we begin our second offering of our popular course “The Dynamic Earth”, which brings a modern view to significant scientific topics: the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere, radioactive dating, the formation of the Swiss Alps, earthquake risk in Bangladesh, and more.
In the first run of the course, students watched videos, took quizzes, and engaged in discussions with Museum research scientists and educators. One of the highlights was definitely the Local Geology Assignment in which students ventured into their local environments to survey for geological observations, take photos, and post their findings. The results were incredibly interesting! The discussion forum included photos of Himalayan rock formations, a granite quarry in Uruguay, and a glacial boulder in the forests of central North Carolina, to name a few! Each location told a small story about the history of life on Earth. Participants expressed overwhelming approval of The Dynamic Earth, including its support for the integration of the Next Generation Science Standards into educational practice. Hosting The Dynamic Earth on Coursera attracted a diverse audience worldwide, which allowed for varied geographical results and perspectives. It’s a truly unique and wonderful opportunity for all!
“The Dynamic Earth: A Course for Educators” begins this Monday, April 14th. I hope you’ll consider joining me and thousands of other incredible students.
Start spreading the news: Coursera is a nominee in 18th Annual Webby Awards in the Education category! It’s a great honor to be chosen among thousands of other applicants for this prestigious award and to sit alongside the other incredible nominees.
For each Webby category, there are two big winners: the “Webby Winner”, picked by judges, and the “People’s Voice” winner, picked by popular vote.
If Coursera is a positive force in helping you achieve your lifelong-learning goals, we ask you to help us win the esteemed People’s Voice Award by voting here.
Thank you to all of the Courserians who show their support and vote. April 24th is the final day to cast your ballot.
Extra credit for those that post to social media and encourage their network to vote for Coursera!
Everything we do and all that we accomplish is because of YOU, our incredible students. Thank you.
Teachers Teaching Teachers: U.S. Dept of State and University of Oregon’s Course on “English as a Foreign Language”
As a Courserian with inherent academic interests, you’ve likely come across at least one educator that truly impressed you with their presentation style, creative lesson plans or uncanny ability to deeply engage with students. Some instructors make teaching seem like natural gift, as if they were born knowing ideal syllabus outlines and final projects topics.
Most teachers, however, know that learning from other educators, psychologists and institutions is a smarter tactic than trying to craft the classroom experience all on their own. That’s why there have been over ten thousand course completions to date from Coursera’s Teacher Professional Development suite, which are expertly designed to train teachers on the best modern instructional techniques.
In a survey of TPD students, we asked: “What teacher professional development content would you like to see more of on Coursera?”, of which 28.4% (or 1384 respondents) answered “Students with limited-English proficiency.”
We’re thrilled to announce the latest addition to the TPD portfolio: the first “English as a Foreign Language” course series, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the University of Oregon.
The free two-part series “Shaping the Way We Teach English, 1: The Landscape of English Language Teaching” and “2: Paths to Success in ELT” begins on April 7 and May 12 (respectively) and may be taken in any order. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment from the U.S. Department of State and the UO.
“This course allows educators anywhere to sign up for free and learn English-teaching strategies from top-ranked university faculty,” said Leslie Opp-Beckman, Director of eLearning in the UO’s American English Institute, a program of the Department of Linguistics. Opp-Beckman, who has worked for more than a decade developing the framework through a series of cooperative agreements with the Office of English Language Programs of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, highlights that “Participants will find themselves in a unique, multimedia-rich collaborative environment that allows them to interact with English-language educators from all over the world.”
Interacting with students from around the world is one of the most enriching aspects of learning on Coursera. For teachers, this means exposure to an entirely new base of educators to collaborate and gain strategies from, and allows teachers to expand beyond their usual location or industry-based networks into a diverse but like-minded community.
Enjoy taking the first “English as a Foreign Language” course on Coursera and remember to always keep learning without limits!
We at Coursera see education as an incredibly powerful tool, capable of unlocking curiosity and creativity and fostering traits that make the world a better place. In our eyes, entrepreneurship stems from empowering students to learn and motivating them to apply their knowledge in impactful ways. As part of our effort to support entrepreneurship worldwide, we are excited to announce Coursera President Daphne Koller’s addition to the inaugural group of Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE).
Daphne will join Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, fashion designer and CEO Tory Burch, Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, and Khan Academy founder Sal Khan on the new group to advocate for entrepreneurship among all constituencies, geographies and sectors. Entrepreneurship is the gateway to economic growth and the Global Entrepreneurship group inspires communities to use creativity as the essential tool to contribute to their country.
Daphne, along with the other PAGE members, will promote entrepreneurship globally, while improving impacts among entrepreneurs, investors and their interconnected networks.
We share in Daphne’s delight in being appointed to PAGE, and look forward to assisting The White House in promoting entrepreneurship for a new generation of leaders around the world.
“At Coursera we partner with top universities and organizations worldwide to equip individuals with the tools they need to succeed in today’s world and make a positive and lasting impact in the future,” said Coursera Co-Founder, Daphne Koller. “We want to broaden our efforts to include not just our community of learners, but everyone who seeks to apply knowledge and skills toward activities that will improve the quality of life for themselves and others. I am very excited to participate in this initiative to empower those individuals to create and build.”
We’re delighted to announce the launch of the Coursera App for Android. Now millions of Coursera students around the world can learn on-the-go—anytime, anywhere! This free app, along with the Coursera apps for iPhone and iPad, offers quick and easy access to over 600 courses, across 12 different languages, from 108 top universities and educational institutions worldwide.
The Coursera App for Android supports:
*While you can take quizzes in-app for all open courses, students earning their Verified Certificate must visit the Coursera.org website to confirm their identity in taking quizzes and completing assignments, which are required to earn your Verified Certificate.
Participating in forum discussions, peer assessment assignments and accessing supplemental reading materials are only available on the Coursera.org website for all courses at this time.
Courses to pursue your passions, advance your career or simply explore a curiosity—from algorithms to Warhol—are convenient and free with Coursera. Stay tuned for updates as we continue to enhance your online education experience.
P.S. A big thank you to our awesome Android Beta Testers!
P.P.S. This is not an April Fool’s Joke!
We are about to celebrate our two year anniversary here at Coursera, and we have exciting news to share with you. In the past two years, Coursera has grown significantly - we have expanded our offerings to over 600 courses, partnered with 108 leading institutions, engaged 7 million learners, and worked to build products that provide students worldwide a great education. And we couldn’t have done any of it without a phenomenal team, which has now grown to around 100 people.
Throughout our growth, we have always kept paramount our mission to change the world through education. It is with this in mind that we are thrilled to announce that, starting in April of this year, Rick Levin will join our team as CEO. Rick was until recently the President of Yale University, and is a sought-after government advisor and business leader. We are eager to leverage Rick’s expertise and leadership to accelerate us toward Coursera’s mission.
Rick comes to us after a highly successful 20-year tenure in higher education. As Yale’s president, he led numerous initiatives to strengthen the university’s brand, pedagogy, areas of study (including science, engineering and medicine), international relationships, and open knowledge sharing. Rick was instrumental in launching Yale’s visionary foray into online education, first in partnership with Stanford and Oxford, and later with Open Yale Courses. He also played a key role in furthering Yale’s partnership with Coursera, which was announced in May of 2013. In addition to his illustrious academic career, he also serves on President Obama’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology, and is a trustee of the Hewlett Foundation and a director of American Express.
We recently turned to Rick as an advisor, in part due to his vision, background and passion around online education. He has contributed a strong strategic voice in how we can use technology to educate people at scale and how we can structure our business going forward. Now, as CEO, Rick will be even better positioned to help us build and deepen our university partnerships, develop our pedagogy, and rethink how people will learn and teach in this new world. We are delighted to bring on such an accomplished educator, economist, government advisor and business leader, who will join us in shaping the future of education.
We’re both very excited and will remain actively engaged in our work at Coursera. Andrew will assume the role of Chairman of the Board, and serve as Chief Evangelist for the company. He will also lead the company’s development of MOOC pedagogy, and work with Rick to expand Coursera’s presence in China. Daphne will become President, taking on a range of key strategic initiatives, and leading the growth and nurturing of Coursera’s partnerships with universities. Lila Ibrahim, who has served as President since August 2013, will assume the role of Chief Business Officer, responsible for business development, growth, marketing, and finance.
We at Coursera still have a lot of room to grow, and much to do in the pursuit of an educational experience that empowers people to improve their lives, their families and their communities. We are thrilled to work with Rick to accelerate our company, our vision, our partnerships and, most importantly, our impact.
Daphne and Andrew
Guest Post: A Learning Hub in a Refugee Camp? University of Geneva Professor Barbara Moser-Mercer’s Experience
Imagine your job is to deliver humanitarian aid to a single refugee camp where your recipients speak Dinka (from South central Sudan), Moro or Tira (from the Nuba mountain region), or Tigré or Tigrinya (from Eritrea), and you don’t speak these languages.
Or, imagine you are tasked with resolving legacies of human rights abuses and implementing transitional justice mechanisms, but you do not know how to communicate with the locals speaking in Pashto or Urdu.
For many professionals and volunteers delivering aid to conflict zones, these are very real challenges that must be faced with bravery and empathy. When conflict erupts in regions whose languages few outsiders master, humanitarian aid workers must rely on local interpreters, who often have very limited training.
This is why InZone, the Center for Interpreting in Conflict Zones at the University of Geneva, exists. Our mission is to provide blended training to interpreters in conflict zones. We work on the ground in refugee camps to help interpreters enhance their skills in interpreting, managing the refugee interview process and dealing with the challenges of communication in times of distress.
We have learned that while the barriers to education can be immense (from security threats to limited internet access), there is extraordinary motivation among refugees to learn – for many victims of conflict, knowledge is their only possession and the only hope of improving their livelihoods.
So how could refugees benefit from MOOCs? Equipped with several years of InZone virtual learning experience in conflict zones, I set up a MOOC case study with two refugees in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, on the border of Somalia.
We set up a miniature Learning Hub for “Foundations of Teaching and Learning,” from the Commonwealth Education Trust (CET). We worked with Coursera and CET to download lecture videos in advance and delivered the course materials on USB keys to Dadaab. We also collaborated closely with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) staff on the ground and Coursera staff in Mountain View, California to troubleshoot issues, while carefully documenting all the challenges the refugee learners faced.
Challenges fell broadly into three categories: technological, cultural and linguistic. Both learners spent about eight hours sharing what they learned with other refugees in the camp (their temporary village), discussing ideas before writing their assignments. I am proud to share that both achieved an average score of 8.25/10 on the 4 quizzes, and 8.5/10 for the two essays. At the end, one of the learners shared:
Thank you very much for this course which you have freely given to us. I would not have had such a good introduction to teaching. When I get in the classroom now, at least I have had an introduction - I can now teach what I know. Also, thanks for the way in which I could further my mind and think about what to do when I have a special teaching problem.
We must find ways to implement sustainable connectivity solutions, be sensitive to language and culture, and work within the framework of the humanitarian principles. All of these things are necessary to unlock the extraordinary learning potential that exists even within the most fragile contexts, and we’re finding ways to make them possible.
Barbara Moser-Mercer is a professor in the Interpreting Department at the University of Geneva and the Founder and Director of InZone.
Hey iPad users, we’re excited to announce that the Coursera App is now available on your iPad! This will bring the experience of our existing iPhone App to your tablet, allowing students to learn on-the-go, with the added benefits of a larger screen.
The iPad app supports:
For now Courserians seeking to participate in the discussion forums, read supplemental materials or complete assignments must visit the Coursera website, but look out for updates on these features later this year.
Android users, we’ve remembered you! We’re working hard to build a great experience on Android, so stay on the lookout for our next app release in the coming months.
Beyond Coursera’s mobile app experience, we’re continuing to develop new and improved ways for lifelong learners everywhere to master new subjects and reach for their academic and career goals.
Review us in the iTunes store! Your feedback helps us make the product better.
“Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process.”
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we are acknowledging our female students around the world. Whether they know it or not, they are actively participating in the ongoing movement for gender parity.
Coursera’s commitment to gender parity is woven into its DNA, with a leadership team that includes a female co-founder, a female president, and many other women in positions of substantial influence. But female leadership within Coursera isn’t enough; we recognize there are still barriers toward ensuring that every woman–around the world–has access to Coursera’s courses.
Women around the world
We conducted a demographic survey of over 250,000 Coursera students (thank you to all who participated!) and estimated the fraction of Coursera’s students in each country who are female:
Figure 1. Fraction of female students by country. This chart shows the estimated proportion of female students from each country in the Coursera user base. The dotted vertical line indicates the estimated proportion of female students overall.
A few noteworthy numbers:
- Romania leads the pack in gender parity with a nearly exact 50/50 split between men and women.
- On the opposite end of the spectrum, only 26% of students from India are female.
- In the United States, women account for roughly 44% of the total population.
- Overall, female students comprise 40% of the Coursera user base.
You can also view a full interactive map of all countries.
The way forward
We have work to do to achieve gender parity in online education, but there is a bright side: the proportion of female students in Coursera classes has been increasing significantly over time.
Figure 2. The proportion of Coursera users who are female (blue line) and the proportion of enrollments from females (green line) have been increasing over time.
We hope to see this trend continue. And even though the gender parity on the Coursera platform is not yet perfect, the access to education Coursera provides is already having a tangible impact on the lives of women — impact that has a clear downstream effect on their families and their communities. From heroes like Balesh Jindal, a physician in New Delhi whose Coursera experience drove her to help prevent sexual violence towards girls in her community, to Sharon Watkins, whose efforts to build local learning communities helped inspire Coursera’s Learning Hubs program, female Courserians themselves are living proof of how online education empowers women.
Let’s all celebrate!
We are proud to stand up for gender equality around the world and are determined to continue to find ways to increase access to education for women everywhere. So today, on International Women’s Day, we thank all of our students, male and female, for being part of our global classroom. Let’s all advance education and give women everywhere the power to learn anything they choose.
Read the full version of this post with technical details and additional analysis!