Coursera is a new e-learning platform offering courses from the top universities, for free. Quality lectures are streamlined using hi-resolution videos; participating students can achieve mastery via interactive assignments and collaborate with a global community of peers. At the end of the course, qualifying participants get a certificate of achievement signed by the professors.
Coursera was founded by professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University. Initially the platform has been used internally inside Stanford and then opened to the public via Andrew Ng’s ml-class.org site. The first course available as part of the Coursera platform was Model Thinking, taught by Scott E. Page from University of Michigan; it officially launched to the public in February 2012.
The project faces difficult competition: almost at the same time, Stanford faculty member Sebastian Thurn teamed up with David Stavens (also at Stanford) and researcher Michael Sokolsky to start Udacity. Their aim is to provide high quality, university-level education at a low cost.
Currently the site has around 10’000 unique visitors in February 2012, but numbers are expected to evolve as the learning platform completes its first set of course offerings in late April / early May 2012.