URBANA – The University of Illinois will offer seven free online classes this fall through an online education company founded by two Stanford University professors, the company announced Tuesday.
The Urbana-Champaign campus will join Princeton, Stanford, the University of Michigan and other schools that have already partnered with Coursera to offer online classes.
Chancellor Phyllis Wise said Illinois is the only land-grant university on the list, which gives it expertise that other schools lack. A faculty committee helped consider the legal and academic issues involved in the agreement, Wise said.
"It also serves our land-grant mission, to share knowledge with people who can't come to campus," Wise said.
The fall courses will include organic chemistry and microeconomics. They won't count toward a degree.
Coursera courses are free, but universities may get some revenue from charging students $30 to $80 for a certificate showing they completed a course, said company co-founder Andrew Ng. The university also could reap revenue by selling the names of high-achieving students who agree to share that information with would-be employers, Ng said.
The Coursera agreement isn't the university's first foray into online education.
In 2008, the university launched its Global Campus virtual university with a bachelor's degree-completion program for registered nurses and graduate programs in education. The school scrapped the initiative after disappointing enrollment.
Nicholas Burbules, a U of I education professor who worked on the faculty group reviewing the issues associated with the Coursera agreement, said some questions remain unanswered, including whether faculty will develop the classes as part of their regular teaching duties.
Coursera has 680,000 students from 190 countries and more than 1.55 million course enrollments, according to Daphne Koller, a co-founder of the company.