With Open Platform, Stanford Seeks to Reclaim MOOC Brand - Technology - The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 4, 2013
With Open Platform, Stanford Seeks to Reclaim MOOC Brand
John Mitchell is Stanford's vice provost for online learning, in charge of a team of engineers, course designers, data researchers, and others who are using the open-source platform Open edX to build and study MOOCs.
By Steve Kolowich
Palo Alto, Calif.
The offices where two professors-turned-entrepreneurs have created an online-education empire are easy to overlook, tucked away in a business center here behind an Indian restaurant and a sandwich shop. That's where Coursera aggregates courses from top-tier institutions and beams them free to millions of students around the world.
But drive northwest for a few miles on the same road—El Camino Real, Silicon Valley's main thoroughfare—and Stanford University is impossible to miss. The institution's arched, Spanish-revival buildings are among higher education's most recognizable icons, just as Stanford's brand is among the most prestigious in world.
In the MOOC marketplace, however, Coursera's brand is by far the better known. Ask anyone about providers of massive open online courses, and Coursera's name comes up, along with that of Udacity, another local company with strong Stanford ties, long before the university's—even though Coursera is only two years old, and some of the courses it offers are taught by Stanford professors.
Jane Manning, director of platforms for Stanford Online, the university's new online-learning arm: "Really, most Stanford faculty wanted to use a platform that they read about in The New York Times.'"
Now Stanford is looking to reclaim some leadership in the MOOC movement from the private companies down the street. For some of its offerings it has started using Open edX, the open-source platform developed by edX, an East Coast nonprofit provider of MOOCs. And Stanford is marshaling its resources and brainpower to improve its own online infrastructure.