A year after the launch of the University of Pennsylvania’s first online courses, the Wharton School is now featuring part of its core curriculum on Coursera.
The Wharton MBA Foundation Series consists of four core business courses — marketing, operation and information management, accounting and finance. Each of the four courses are set to begin on Coursera within the next few weeks and last from six to 10 weeks.
“These classes are highly representative of the core required classes in the MBA,” Managing Director of the Innovation Group Don Huesman said.
The idea began when several Wharton professors requested to teach these introductory level courses on Coursera. Huesman said that the University thought it best to link these classes together as part of the Foundation Series.
Interim Executive Director of Penn’s Open Learning Initiative Dierdre Woods said that the courses are “demonstrating Penn’s depth and breadth. We do provide the best business courses and best business education. We are interested in sharing and providing leadership throughout the world.”
Since the beginning of the partnership in 2012, Penn has launched a total of 18 courses on Coursera. The functions of these courses are still changing.
Some Coursera professors, including Vice Dean of Innovation Karl Ulrich, are using “flipped classroom” methods where students in Wharton can watch lectures at home and participate in discussions and group activities while in class.
Brian Bushee, who will be teaching Intro to Accounting on Coursera, hopes to do this as well.
“The most boring part of class is when a professor stands up there and is talking about PowerPoint slides,” Bushee said. “You got to have people talking to each other.”
Though online learning is expanding, Penn administrators and professors recognize its limits.
“There’s some magic that happens in class. I don’t think there’s a substitute out there in the real world,” Woods said. “I think having a wonderful, lively, intellectual campus experience really can’t be replicated 100 percent online.”
If the initial Coursera courses are successful, additional core courses will be added to the roster, said Huesman.
For Bushee — who believes someday virtual professors might replace physical ones — the Foundation Series teaches people the very basics of business, and allows them to see if business is right for them or not.
“If you were thinking of getting an MBA, you might not know what the core courses are,” Bushee said. “The branding helps you know the four things you need to know.”
Over 76,000 people have already enrolled in his course, which is set to begin in a week.
“We’re really only at the beginning of the story,” Huesman said.