An upcoming class on Coursera

The University of Washington and 11 other universities will begin free distribution of some  courses through Coursera, the online education platform started by Stanford Computer Science Professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng.

The University of Washington is in the final stages of choosing which courses will be available via Coursera, but the state’s largest higher educational institution will likely target areas such as applied math, computational finance and computer science. Some of the courses will be available this fall, with a total of 12 to 15 to be offered during the 2012-2013 school year. At this time, all of the courses offered online through Coursera will be available for free.

Ana Mari Cauce, provost at The University of Washington, said that the new offering is part of the university’s mission of building an informed community. “We’re pleased to align with Coursera’s online learning platform and join other institutions in using technology to reach a variety of learners in innovative ways,” she said.

In addition to the UW, the California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Georgia Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, UC San Francisco, University of Edinburgh, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Toronto and University of Virginia have inked deals with the Mountain View, California upstart. In April, Princeton, University of Michigan, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania announced plans to offer some of their courses through Coursera for free.

Students can register for the University of Michigan’s upcoming 10-week class —  Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World — or Stanford’s 6-week class on Cryptography. To date, more than 680,000 students from 190 countries have enrolled in one of Coursera’s 43 courses.

Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng

“We believe that putting courses online for free via Coursera offers tremendous value for students, professors and universities alike,” said Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng in a release. “Students have greater access than ever before to the world’s foremost subject matter experts. Professors can reach more students in one course than they could have hoped to in a lifetime. Universities can teach millions worldwide, and make time on-campus for interactive in-class learning. This is truly the future of higher education.”

David Szatmary, vice provost, University of Washington Educational Outreach, is equally excited about the opportunity. He called it a “gateway” to offer more courses to the general public, eventually expanding to include paid options in which students could earn a UW credit.

At this point, credits are not granted through the Coursera program.

“All UW classes on Coursera and the UW credentialed option will be approved and taught by the world-class departments at the University of Washington,” said Szatmary.  “We are very pleased to be part of this new movement that provides ever greater access to the best classes in the world.”

In addition to the new offerings, Caltech and the University of Pennsylvania have invested $3.7 million in the company. That comes on top of previous investments from New Enterprise Associates and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, bringing total funding to over $22 million.

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