‘MOOC’ Provider Coursera Hires Former Yale President as CEO

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Coursera, a Silicon Valley provider of “massive, open, online courses” that has shown an interest in becoming involved in K-12 teacher training, has nabbed a prominent name from the world of higher education to serve as its CEO.

Former Yale President Richard C. Levin will take over the executive position for the organization, which currently offers 600 courses and partners with 108 educational institutions in 19 nations.

Having Levin, 66, on board will help 2-year-old Coursera “build and deepen our university partnerships, develop our pedagogy, and rethink how people will learn and teach in this new world,” wrote Coursera co-founders Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, in an entry on the company’s blog.

While at Yale, Levin encouraged the university to expand its work in online education, on its own and through partnerships with other institutions, the Coursera officials noted. Levin currently serves on the White House Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and is a trustee of the Hewlett Foundation, the company said.

Supporters of MOOCs have touted them as a way to greatly expand public access to high-quality academic lessons and encourage lifelong learning across a number of subjects and fields.

Yet the courses have been met with wariness in some quarters, including the postsecondary world, by those who question their quality and their ability to lead students to course completion.

Last year Coursera announced plans to partner with a group of universities to provide free online coursework for K-12 teachers seeking to meet their ongoing professional development requirements. The lessons ranged from core science topics to pedagogical classes focused on how to survive first-year teaching.

MOOCs have also faced questions about whether their business models are sustainable. Coursera recently announced that it generated some revenue by collecting money from students seeking verified certificates for having completed its courses.

Levin retired as the president of Yale last June, after 20 years at the helm. He has served as an adviser on Coursera’s board since January, and he will start work as CEO in April.

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