Dear Colleagues and Friends:

I am delighted to announce that today we have partnered with Coursera ( to offer free courses online for anyone worldwide.  This is a red-letter day in our university's history.  We are the very first land-grant university to join the consortium of more than a dozen global universities that includes 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 Toronto, University of Virginia, University of Michigan and University of Washington.

This serves our land-grant mission by sharing knowledge with people who can't physically come to our campus, and it allows us to introduce ourselves to prospective students and lifelong learners across our state and around the globe.

Coursera's goal, and now ours, is to "empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in."  This is one of the answers to the question, "How do we plan the future of higher education so that we reach as many people on this planet as possible?"  Coursera allows us to reach out to lifelong learners - people who cannot physically get to our campus, but who have an interest in learning from our world-class faculty.  Coursera is a wonderful compliment to what we offer.

Coursera was founded in the fall of 2011 by Stanford Computer Science Professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, and in April 2012 announced that Princeton, University of Michigan, Stanford and Penn were entering into agreement with Coursera to bring course content online for free.  To date, Coursera has seen over 680,000 students from 190 countries and more than 1.6 million course enrollments across its 43 courses.

Courses are free to take on the Coursera platform, but Coursera monetizes services around these courses.  Any profits will be shared with partner universities.  For example, if a student wants a certificate that acknowledges their completion of the course, they purchase this from Coursera.  Coursera shares these revenues with the university.  We will start the actual instruction of these courses later in the fall.  It is worth noting that the online form allows us extreme flexibility in the style and timing of their delivery.  

Please join me in thanking everyone involved in making this a reality for us, especially the Senate Executive Committee; Rob Rutenbar, Abel Bliss Professor and Head of the Department of Computer Science; and Nick Burbules, Gutgsell Professor and Chair-elect of the University Senates Conference.


Phyllis M. Wise
Vice President, University of Illinois
Chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


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