N.Y. Public Library Plans Face-to-Face ‘Classes’ for MOOC Students

In a pilot program with Coursera, the New York Public Library plans to organize meet-ups at which people taking massive open online courses can gather and discuss the courses with help from “trained facilitators.”

The partnership is part the MOOC company’s effort to build an infrastructure for in-person learning around its free online courses. Research has suggested that MOOC students who receive offline help earn higher scores on their assessments.

Coursera is not paying the library to provide this service, says Luke Swarthout, the library’s director of adult-education services. The library plans to foot the bill for weekly discussion groups as part of its own public-service mission, he says, adding: “There’s no money exchanging hands between anybody.”

The budget for the New York City meet-ups has not been determined, but the library is starting small “to gauge interest,” Mr. Swarthout says. It plans to schedule weekly gatherings for “at least a half-dozen classes” this summer, advertising to people in New York who have already signed up for MOOCs. The facilitators will probably be local graduate students, he says, and the meet-ups will be free.

Coursera has been helping organizations establish similar “learning hubs” in a number of locations, mostly outside the United States. The company provided The Chronicle some data points suggesting that students who participate in face-to-face meet-ups at learning hubs complete its courses at significantly higher rates than do typical MOOC students, although the data have not been studied independently.

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