As campuses are temporarily halting their in-person teaching, the online learning platform Coursera announced that it will provide unlimited free courses to universities across the world. Starting from March 2020, the full catalogue will be available to any educational institution that needs alternative teaching to counter the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement comes as more institutions across the globe were instructed to suspend classes to halt the spread of the virus. Following in the footsteps of Italy, Europe’s most affected country, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary have now ordered campus closures, alongside a slew of US states.

Coursera said that any university around the world could sign up to provide its students with access to any of the 3,800 courses hosted. Universities will have access through Coursera for Campus, a platform that enables institutions to create online programmes for students.

Those that sign up will enjoy the service through 31 July. After that, the Californian company will provide month-to-month extensions “depending on prevailing risk assessments”. Students who enrol on or before the end of July will be granted access until 30 September.

Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera’s chief executive, said that as universities scramble to find ways to minimise disruption to students, Coursera was fortunate to have university and industry partners with a mission to “serve learners everywhere”.

Since the coronavirus disruption began, he said, Duke University (US) had been using Coursera for Campus to curate programs for students at its Duke Kunshan campus in China. Access has now been expanded to include all of Coursera’s catalogues.

To help institutions new to the platform gain a better understanding of the materials and tools available, Coursera would soon host webinars and sharing resources, Mr. Maggioncalda said.

edX also expands courses

Fellow online provider edX has also announced an expansion of its offering to help address coronavirus-related disruption.

The platform has launched its Remote Access Programme, which will provide students of its partner institutions with free access to courses and programmes from all edX partners participating in the initiative, not just their own institution.

In a statement, edX founder Anant Agarwal said the platform wanted “to help our university partners best support their students during this tough time… and will look for additional ways to help learners affected all over the world.

Source: Times Higher Education