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Regular version of the site

HSE on Coursera: This is only the start

The 11 educational courses completed in the first year of HSE's cooperation with Coursera won an audienec of 300,000. The courses' lecturers talked about how they succeeded in doing this at a round table at HSE.

The eleven courses (seven in Russian, four in English) that ran on the Coursera platform in 2014 will soon be added to by another eleven. One of the new courses, Institutional Economics, launched in September, and another two, Economics of Transition and Emerging Markets and Cultural Philosophy, are set to launch in November 2014.

HSE's expanded presence on Coursera is the University's strategic decision. As Vice Rector Sergei Roshchin said, blended learning, i.e. combining online and offline studies, is one of the dominant trends in contemporary education. But, in order for IT to be effectively involved in the learning process, courses like those available on Coursera, should not be 'discrete' or one-offs, they should be regular, ongoing events.

What the numbers show

About 290,000 people signed up to HSE's first 11 courses in 2014, with a completion rate of between 1% – 17%. The most popular course was Introduction to Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Makes Decisions  for which about 75,000 people signed up and about 7.4% of those completed successfully.

The most dedicated students were those in the Financial Markets and Institutions, and Documents and Presentations in LaTeX courses – completed in full by 17% and 10% (respectively) of those who enrolled. (The average proportion is 5% on Coursera).

HSE's Centre for Institutional Research carried out a survey of people signing up for and leaving courses, which paints a picture of the average participant, or types of participant. Of the people signing up for HSE's Coursera courses 57% were men and 43% women, apart from two courses, Core Concepts in Data Analysis, which saw 70% men, and Understanding Russians which was 60% women.

Participants' median age was 29, with the predictably large difference between Russian and English language courses – those involved in English-language courses were on average six years older. 69% of those involved in Russian language courses were from Russia, and 24% of those involved in English language courses were from the United States. Overall, HSE's courses offered via Coursera attracted participants from 132 countries. Most of those signing up for Russian-language courses had a BA or specialist's degree, and those signing up for English-language courses had MAs.

Coursera: Not just enlightenment, but education

Professor Nikolai Berzon, who developed HSE's first course for Coursera, Financial Markets and Institutions, believes that Coursera's classes offer more than a learning opportunity. He says they – potentially – could be incorporated into University courses.

Most of the HSEs first courses were introductory, and some found them too easy and some too difficult. Mira Bergelson, who developed the course Understanding Russians: Contexts of Intercultural Communication, noted jokingly, that many participants misunderstood the title, and as a result intercultural communications specialists signed up for the course – but so did people who expected it to 'explain to them how to act with Russians.'

Mira Bergelson compared Mass Open Online Courses (MOOC) with the universities of the Middle Ages, where how and who was teaching mattered more than what was being taught. Teachers' names and charisma mean a lot to Coursera students.

Boris Mirkin talked in detail about how his complex data analysis course was developed, concluding that he would like to develop more for the project.

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