High schools to use Penn Coursera class

Students will hear lectures from Professor Robert Ghrist's calculus class on Coursera

· August 29, 2013, 3:33 pm   ·  Updated August 29, 2013, 3:47 pm

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Students at nine high schools will have access to a Penn professor and teaching assistants as part of a new Massive Open Online Course initiative which begins this school year.

The initiative, announced by Provost Vincent Price, will offer math courses to seniors at different high schools across the country. The schools include the Friends Select School in Philadelphia, the Middlesex County Academy of Science in New Jersey and Stanford Online High School in California, among others.

“We have teamed up with nine high schools for them to use Rob Ghrist’s Coursera Single Variable Calculus course in their 12th grade Calculus courses,” Edward Rock, Penn’s director of open course initiatives, said in an email.

Related: Economics class to open globally through Coursera

The online offering will not completely replace the schools’ existing Calculus courses but rather supplement them. The plan is to offer Coursera as a teaching tool for high school teachers.

“In these courses, I will not be actively teaching – the [high school] teachers will use my lectures and materials in a ‘flipped’ or ‘blended’ setting,” said Professor Robert Ghrist, who teaches math and engineering at Penn, in an email.

“The students will get individualized instruction [from their teacher], but using a Penn professor for the lectures. A Penn TA will be assisting the classes through online forums, as per Coursera,” he added.

Ghrist indicated that this program is being instituted as a crucial improvement to existing Advanced Placement calculus courses.

“I – and many other professors – am frustrated with how poorly the AP Calculus program prepares students for math,” Ghrist said. “I have created this online version of MATH 104 to help ‘undo’ the damage that the AP curriculum does.”

Related: Penn Coursera course among first to be considered for credit

However, online course offerings like this are not common nationwide, nor are they expected to become prevalent in the near future. This pilot will run throughout the 2013-2014 school year and will be evaluated nine months from now.

“I doubt that this will become widespread,” Ghrist said. “This is an experiment. But, fingers crossed, we’ll keep going.”

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