Photo illustration by Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
While Ohio State students are paying a higher tuition bill this academic year, anyone with Internet access and an interest in pharmacy will soon be able to take classes from OSU for free.
That new opportunity is the result of an agreement with Coursera, a company headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., which partners with universities from around the world to offer online courses for free. Coursera, which previously had partnerships with 16 universities, announced new partnerships with 17 additional universities Wednesday, including OSU.
“I think that we’re seeing a number of very reputable schools that are considering different approaches to how they address their distance education, and as a result, these massive open online course platforms like Coursera are assuming more and more and more importance, and we have really two options,” said Wayne Carlson, OSU’s vice provost for undergraduate studies and dean of undergraduate education. “We can kind of sit by and ignore them and do our own thing, or we can participate and be at the table for discussions about which direction this technology might take. We chose the latter.”
OSU students will not be able to take Coursera courses for credit. The courses will, however, be available to people anywhere in the world at no cost.
“We think that there is material and content within those two courses that people around the world can benefit from,” Carlson said. “In some ways we benefit indirectly as students across the world who might be taking one of the pharmacy courses that we’re going to be offering get excited about OSU, maybe they apply to school here, maybe there’s some other way they can get involved with what we do at Ohio State.”
OSU’s partnership with Coursera will begin with the offering of two courses, both from the College of Pharmacy. Those courses are “Generation Rx: The Science Behind Prescription Drug Abuse,” a course taught by Nicole Kwiek, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacology, and “Introduction to Pharmacy,” which will be taught by Kenneth Hale, the college’s assistant dean of professional and external affairs and also a clinical associate professor in pharmacy practice and administration.
While OSU’s partnership with Coursera could be beneficial in a variety of ways, both in the short term and long term, profit is not currently one of them. Carlson said that Coursera did not have to pay in advance for their partnership with OSU, and that “there’s no solid business model.”
“There is no revenue stream,” Carlson said. “So the only real advantage there is the public relations that comes with being tied to some pretty reputable schools that are also doing this. Now down the road, there may be a business plan, a revenue stream that evolves and then at that particular point, we can enter into discussions with Coursera and the partners about how that revenue is shared. There is no such revenue right now.”
Coursera currently has partnerships with 33 universities. That list includes six of the universities considered to be among the top 10 nationally by “U.S. News and World Report”: Princeton University, Columbia University, Stanford University, Duke University, University of Pennsylvania and the California Institute of Technology.
Coursera’s partnerships also include seven with universities from nations outside the United States, including in Switzerland, Israel, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. U.S. students are able to take courses from foreign universities through Coursera, and the same is true for international students being able to take courses from other nations, including the U.S.
Kwiek said the university “saw a connection” with pharmacy in deciding what courses to offer via Coursera.
“(The university) thought that, that might be a relevant topic to get out,” Kwiek said. “We have what’s called a Generation Rx initiative, and that is developing resources, studying the problem of prescription drug abuse, and I believe that the provost saw a natural fit there, so that’s where they started … we also saw that, ‘Hey, perhaps there are students out there who might be considering pharmacy as a degree, but they don’t know how to do it, they don’t know what it’s about,’ so we have this introduction to pharmacy class that we’ve offered online for several years … that is another place that they saw a natural fit as well.”
Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller explained the company’s mission and how the addition of 17 new universities will help advance their goals.
“We set out to make education accessible to everyone around the world, and seeing our vision come to life has been an incredible experience,” Koller said in a press release. “With the addition of the exceptional, forward thinking institutions coming on board today, we’re proud to offer an even more diverse experience to our students.”
Some students however, aren’t a fan of the program.
“I think it’s a load of bull. I’m sitting here working and paying for school myself, like a sucker, and now these people are getting the same classes for free?,” said AJ Anderson, a first-year in pharmacy school.
Other reviews from OSU students on Coursera were generally positive.
“It sounds awesome,” said Cory Wilcox, a second-year in architecture. “I had to take an online pharmacy class. It would have been good to take it for free. I know people who would just take classes for the sake of taking classes. It is a good idea for someone who is graduated and wants to further their education for free.”
Stephanie Ransom, a first-year in biochemistry, agreed.
“It is good it’s offered to students who can’t afford school,” Ransom said. “If someone were to put this on their resume, then the employer would see that the class was not taken in a university setting. It would be treated differently.”
Joel Thomas, Dan Stout and Chelsea Spears contributed to this story.