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’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!
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.
People agree that Dan Ariely is a pretty cool professor teaching a pretty rad class: “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior”.
To review some of the reasons why we love Professor Dan Ariely:
1) He builds toy robots
Robots are generally considered rational beings
2) He uses classy words like “Loins” (at 2:36)
3) He uses relatable daily scenarios to teach important lessons, like when you put on your hilarious “I’m-eating-birthday-cake” face
4) Considering you just stuffed your face with cake, he reminds you to stick to your diet by using cash instead of credit cards. NO MUFFIN FOR YOU, SIR!
5) He knows I only “borrowed” those colorful Post-Its from the office for a “really important weekend project”.
Photo credit: http://iruntheinternet.com/04380
6) He knows there is nothing more powerful than “The IKEA Effect”:
Take my own recipe “Breakfast Protein Cupcake Creation-Thingy”: I think it’s amazing, but my colleague David thinks “It tastes like chalk” »
Behold my AMAZING CHALKY CREATION.
Now you are convinced to take Dan Ariely’s course: “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior”!
We are tremendously excited to announce our newest Courserian: David Liu, formerly a Director of Legal at Google, joins us as our General Counsel.
David Liu joins Coursera’s leadership team as a General Counsel to help Coursera navigate the legal complexities that come with growing a worldwide education platform. David is a seasoned veteran of business and law, and brings extensive entrepreneurial experience, having co-founded one of the leading product companies in the scrapbooking space and an e-commerce fundraising platform.
David joins us from Causera, a startup focused on providing schools and other community organizations with innovative commerce and group management tools (any similarity in company name is purely coincidental, folks!) He previously served as an Associate and Director of Legal at Google. During his nine years there, David served as the lead attorney for a wide range of products, including AdSense, Google Earth, and Google Wallet, and as the knowledge lead for content acquisition, software distribution, and platform integration transactions. He also led the New Product Initiatives legal team, which supported Google’s new business development efforts, and the Commerce legal team, which supported Google’s payments and offers products.
David earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his JD from Harvard Law School.
The father of three, David is active in his school PTA and look forward a future where his kids’ educational experiences will be enriched by the perspectives of participants from around the world.
Courserians, please join us in welcoming David on board!
Comment or Tweet @Coursera your greetings!
We are tremendously excited to announce a key hire joining Coursera’s leadership team; Dr. Vivek Goel, the former Provost of the University of Toronto and current President and CEO of Public Health Ontario, joins us in May as our Chief Academic Strategist.
As Chief Academic Strategist, Dr. Goel will help us build and maintain our fast growing ecosystem of partner universities and educational institutions, while assisting partners to explore deeper and broader course development, collaboration, and joint academic initiatives.
Throughout his career, Vivek has built strategic partnerships across organizations in a range of industries–from health services to academia, government and beyond. In his current role as the Founding President and CEO of Public Health Ontario, Vivek leds this new agency in improving the use of information and knowledge in the public health practice. Previously, Vivek was Vice President and Provost at the University of Toronto, where he is still a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the Institute for Health Policy, Management & Evaluation. Vivek is also an adjunct senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Institute for Health Information, a member of the board for the Change Foundation, and a member of the National Statistics Council at Statistics Canada. Dr. Goel earned an MD from McGill University, and two Master’s degrees in health administration and biostatistics from The University of Toronto and Harvard University, respectively.
Please join us in welcoming Vivek on board!
Comment or Tweet @Coursera your greetings!