A leading online course provider announced Wednesday that it will offer free professional training and development courses to prepare teachers worldwide for Web-based classes.
Coursera, a for-profit clearinghouse for online and videotaped courses developed and taught by professors at well-established colleges, created a "teacher professional development" category, offering K-12 teachers and parents the courses in subjects such as content development, the common core curriculum and blended learning strategies.
Anyone will have access to these courses through the Coursera website, said the organization's co-founder, Daphne Koller.
"It would look like any other Coursera class, but instead of physics and business, we'll have courses in education."
Offering the courses online and for free could be a boon to both school districts and their educators, supporters say.
"During in-service days, teachers are out of the classroom and the district spends money on sending them to training or bringing in an instructor," said Melissa Loble, associate dean for distance learning at the University of California, Irvine.
The Coursera option "provides new kinds of learning that busy and underpaid teachers can utilize. They can participate whenever it fits their schedule," Loble said.
Seven schools of education -- including at UC Irvine -- and educational institutions and museums including the American Museum of Natural History, the Commonwealth Education Trust and the Museum of Modern Art, have partnered with Coursera to develop the new courses that will be available to people across the globe.
The partnerships will provide educational concepts that transcend geographical boundaries, Koller said.
Partners like the Commonwealth Education Trust "provide educational concepts to teachers so they can be more effective in their communities," wherever that may be, she said, and could also be used by parents who home school their children.
Coursera, which enrolls thousands of students in each course worldwide, offers the courses for free, though a $30 to $99 fee may be charged for a completion certificate.
Classes are taken under surveillance monitoring to reduce cheating. That monitoring is aimed at confirming the individual's identity, including their typing patterns.