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! 1 EXPANDING ONLINE EDUCATION Expanding Online Education: How and Why Penn State Should Increase its

Expanding Online Education:

How and Why Penn State Should Increase its Role in Massive Open Online Courses

Presented to the Senior Director, Teaching and Learning with Technology The Pennsylvania State University Prepared by Nicholas DeLissio PSU College of the Liberal Arts, Class of 2017 April 24, 2014

Above: A Coursera lecture pre-record setup





Massive Open Online Courses have been on an upward trend for the past three years. Penn State is currently minimally invested in these courses through the company Coursera. However, more can and needs to be done to increase the investment in this new wave of education if Penn State wishes to be a a leader in the field. Increasing its range of influence, projected increase in profits, and engaging instructors with a new and exciting form of teaching are a handful of presented reasons why Penn State should expand its use of MOOCs. By increasing the overall number of courses available, oering courses from Penn State’s top colleges and instructors, and obtaining creditable status for courses, Penn State will be successful in its implementation of the MOOC and its role as a top MOOC oering University.


To make aware to the Penn State Teaching and Learning With Technology department the high and rising demand for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and why and how Penn State should increase and expand its investment in its cooperation with the MOOC company Coursera. Supporting data, an explanation of the potential benefits, and a realistic and viable solution are presented to make the case.


Persuade Penn State leadership at the necessary levels of authority to acknowledge the need for further MOOC investment at Penn State.

Increase Penn State involvement with MOOCs by offering a new line of courses through Coursera that represent a larger portion of Penn State’s colleges and that can potentially provide credit for completion.

Increase instructor involvement by creating an incentive for professors to create a MOOC.


Create a new line of MOOCs to be offered through Coursera. Around three to five. Each would be from one of Penn State’s more prestigious colleges (i.e. College of Agricultural Science, College of Engineering, Smeal College of Business) and is also in high demand, on campus and at other Universities. At least one should be taught by one of Penn State’s reputable or popular




instructors. Furthermore, create an incentive, either in the form of research grants or salary bonus, for instructor initiative to create his or her own course for Coursera.

Project Outline

This briefing will assess the reason and argument for the cause of expanding Penn State’s list of offered MOOCs, and will present a viable and realistic solution to help implement it. Argument:

  • - How Penn State’s current MOOC activity is insufficient while the trend and demand for free online education booms.

  • - An explanation of the benefits that Penn State can reap from increased MOOC investment.

  • - The philosophical case for Penn State having a greater role in free online education.

Solution: A detailed proposal on what course of action the University should take in order to

sustain its role as a leader in free online education and benefit likewise.





MOOCs on the Rise

In February, 2013, Pennsylvania State University signed up with the Massive Open Online Course company called Coursera to offer five courses to the 4.7 million online-enrolled students - gaining 50,000 sign-ups for its courses since then. Coursera, a for-profit educational technology company offers Massive Open Online Courses, or “MOOC” for short. MOOCs are offered in a large variety of courses through different Universities, are open to anyone with an internet connection, and are generally free of charge. The generally is used because in certain cases, like Coursera as a best example, there are fees for a number of the premium services associated, however the educational material is free of charge. Unlike Penn State World Campus, MOOCs are open-lecture based and designed for a mass audience (in the tens of thousands), whereas World Campus uses a more traditional classroom style. Where a World Campus class uses Skype or pre-recordings of a whole lecture presented to a live class, MOOCs typically use segmented lectures (broken up with intermittent material based questions or quizzes), forums for student-to-student or student-instructor communication, and peer grading systems.

! 4 EXPANDING ONLINE EDUCATION A PROPOSED ARGUMENT MOOCs on the Rise In February, 2013, Pennsylvania




Since its inception in 2007 by Stanford University professors, the concept of MOOCs has caught on fast. More to say is the astounding gold-rush hype for MOOCs that has blown up in the past three years, in which the number of universities signing up for such programs and the courses being made available skyrocketed. As a part of this new wave Penn State signed up with Coursera to offer its set of courses. Clearly, the case for getting Penn State in on this trend does not need to be made, however after only adding two more courses to its online curriculum since last February, while rival schools like Ohio State are offering a total of ten, the case can be made that Penn State needs to capitalize on the this upward trend. Although there is not much case to be made that Penn State will face any negative consequences from remaining stoic on the cause for MOOCs, there is, however, reason to be heard that increasing its number of courses available would be greatly beneficial to the University; and now, while the demand for MOOCs is high and still rising, is the best time for Penn State to act on it.


How Penn State Benefits

Given that Penn State expands its list of available Massive Open Online Courses on Coursera, there would be a number of results that would greatly benefit the University. These are the top three from among many possible acquisitions.


To start off, possibly the biggest reward for this investment is the return profit. Coursera is a for- profit company that makes its money through verified certification fees, live exam fees, third party sponsorships, and and using the course models to provide training to companies. The participating universities get a 5-16% cut of these charges (based on how long the course has been offered) and furthermore, a 20% cut of Coursera’s gross profit. Now, consider that of Coursera’s 4.7 million enrolled students, 25,000 of those have registered for certification, all of whom will have to pay the fee. The price for certification is approximately somewhere between $30-$100. That’s a revenue range of $750,000-$2.5 million. If Penn State offered more courses that had a high demand for credit obtainability or certification, it could easily generate a revenue that would make up a relatively significant part of the budget.




The second mean through which MOOC courses can benefit Penn State is how they expand its sphere of influence. The beautiful genius of MOOCs is that anyone can take the classes for free. And “anyone” is really only restricted to the availability of internet access. This means that all people outside Penn State’s typical recruiting demographic have the ability to take Penn State courses. From the young, to the old, the rich and the poor, students from foreign lands, and even a student from Ohio State can be a Penn State student. With only 5 courses available, Penn State was able to reach out to 50,000 students. Presented with the theoretical concept that high-demand course can draw a number of enrolled students twice or three times that average number, than Penn State could easily double or quadruple the 50,000 students its already influencing - and continue to uphold its reputation as a world-class university.


The third benefit is one of status and not material possession. The result of Penn State heavily increasing its role in MOOCs and free online education makes it into a leader and forerunner in the field. Already does Penn State have a reputation for one of the largest total student bodies in the world (counting world camps), as a school that conducts top-level research and leads other major universities in the fields of engineering, agricultural science, and business, and do employers and companies consider Penn State a world-class and top-tier school. Now as the future of education branches off into this new and popular format, Penn State will be at the helm, and students across the globe will look to Penn State as they seek new knowledge.


For the Love of Learning

Massive Open Online Courses have much to offer Penn State and have the potential to drastically improve its educational system in the future. As a University, its Penn State’s focus is to be a center for knowledge and learning, and so the reason and foundation for this advocacy should not be limited only to how MOOCs help Penn State, but how Penn State uses MOOCs to teach and help students learn. To quote Aristotle, “All men by nature desire knowledge”. It is this ideal that drives the purpose of free online education, and is a motivator for many of Coursera’s enrolled members. With the dawn of the information age and the steady and seemingly endless rise of the internet, knowledge can no longer be restricted by location, wealth, age, or class. Coursera draws its students from all walks of life, whom Penn State has




the power to and influence through a new line of offered MOOCs. Many of these groups are well outside of Penn State’s typical demographic range, for both on-campus and World Campus students. These are people that are most impacted by free online education:

High School students: Either they’re interested in exploring options for potential majors or want to get a head start on college and are looking for class credits, this will allow Penn State to reach out to potential enrollments while simultaneously allow the student to gage the quality of what Penn State has to offer.

Did not attend college: People who either couldn’t afford it or simply weren’t interested still maintain the desire to learn and can do it most easily through MOOCs. They may be interested in a particular course for a requirement for a certification or for a very specialized technical career.

Under-Grad of Post-Graduate students: Students who are looking for a specific course as a requirement for their degree are looking to bolster their resume. This is not limited to Penn State students, the beauty of MOOCs is that they are open to everyone, including students from other Universities.

Senior Citizens:With the new availability of of online education resources, the retired elderly have the option to spend their free time learning new things.

Most importantly, however, there is no demographic restriction to the individuals who simply want to learn, and Penn State has the ability and responsibility to provide to those people that opportunity.







The evidence is clear. Penn State has before it the opportunity to capitalize on a great and rewarding investment. The question of “why” no longer pertains, its the questions of “how” that will now be answered. Here, in detail, a solution is proposed, that if taken accordingly and implemented by Penn State University, will allow it to fully reap the benefits and rewards of its investment in Massive Open Online Courses.


The first step is to expand its line of courses available through Coursera. By doing this, Penn State will able to increase the options students have when taking a Penn State MOOC, increase the number of students who sign up for them, and further increase the profit that Penn State receives from Coursera, all on a flat increased rate. While in the long term, it would be expected that Penn State has a full list of courses available shy or similar to the amount available through World Campus, however to think realistically abut MOOCs, the trending rate can only be predicted a year or two out. With this said, the realistic goal is short term. The most viable solution is to create three to five new courses to be made available through Coursera within the next two years. A two year window is to be the expectation in this circumstance due to the immense amount of planning and preparation that the instructor and Coursera administrators have to go through. This will be the foundation for the expansion of the Penn State MOOC program.


The next step is to increase the quality of the current existing and upcoming courses. This can be done in three ways. The first of which is the most important for drawing the profit benefit. Penn State only has one course, of its current seven, that offers class credit. Including the added three to five, it would be most beneficial if five of these courses obtained this ability. This will be a multiplier in student enrollment, and will increase the rate of students who sign-up for certification. Furthermore, if the new classes offered were to be produced by Penn State’s top leading colleges like the College of Engineering, College of Agricultural Sciences, and Smeal




College of Business, and were also known to be in high demand across all universities, than there would be a massive increase in enrollment, on an exponential scale. And as a final multiplier to the quality of the offered courses and increase in course traffic, it is suggested that any of these newly offered courses are taught by one or some of Penn State’s favored and most reputable professors. All of these recommendations drastically improve the quality content of the MOOCs, and simultaneously multiply the amount of students enrolling for the course and signing up for certification.


The final step is to provide a way for the instructors and professors to get excited for this new mode of teaching and take initiative to produce their own course. What is needed is an incentive. Since teaching is always an expenditure of time and energy for professors that is seldom done for free, a monetary incentive is proposed in the form of either research grants or salary bonuses. It is noted that professors currently do not have royalty over the produced courses and thus make no money directly from the program. This is why the University must take responsibility for engaging teachers to create new content.


These three solutions in combination with each other will drive Penn State into the next generation of online education, and will secure its spot as an initiator and leader for which other universities will follow. Free online education has massive potential for future generations and universities like Penn State hold the key to unlocking their full potential.






Here we have learned that Massive Open Online Courses have much to offer both the university and the student. The potential of which could continue to drive the popularity of free online education and possibilities for global learning in the future.


The concept that MOOCs are a rising, popular, and effective new mode of education is now more a reality than ever, and the benefits it provides to the producers of content, like major universities, give reason and incentive to capitalize on the upward trend. In turn, the new opportunities for MOOCs provided by the university in their initiative benefit the learner and creates new opportunities for students all around the world.


Penn State now has the timing, the means, and the ways to make this theoretical opportunity into a realistic goal. Expanding its role in Massive Open Online Courses will not only be a benefit to itself but to a new global wave of learners who need no reason or rhyme to enjoy the access to unrestricted information and the joy of learning new concepts and skills.