Hoping to take advantage of new technologies to expand online education, 10 additional public universities and state college systems around the country are affiliating with Coursera, one of the leading providers of online education.
But the schools' participation may focus more on their local campuses rather than on the worldwide audiences that Coursera previously had been courting.
Thursday's announcement of the new partnerships means that the state schools, from New York to New Mexico, will experiment with using Coursera's massive online open course (MOOC) video and testing platform to improve and widen online learning on their own campuses, officials said.
It is expected to bolster the so-called blended classroom in which online videotaped lectures from various online courses are an enrichment tool, like a textbook, in a class that also has face-to-face teaching and evaluation.
The 10 public schools and systems will be able to offer their own MOOC classes worldwide on the Coursera platform as scores of other universities have done for immense numbers of students, mainly not for academic credit so far.
But the emphasis of the new partnerships is for the universities to bring their own in-state students back to degree programs, hasten graduation rates and start high school students on college education early, according to Daphne Koller, one of the two Stanford University professors who founded the Mountain View-based Coursera last year.
The goal is to provide the public universities with "a set of trajectories and pathways that increase capacity and increase access" for students, Koller said.
The institutions are the State University of New York, the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Board of Regents (which oversees other public campuses in that state), University of Colorado system, University of Houston system, University of Kentucky, University of Nebraska, University of New Mexico, University System of Georgia and West Virginia University System.
Several University of California campuses already offer non-credit classes through the for-profit Coursera and through rival edX, a nonprofit based in Massachusetts. Some Cal State schools have for-credit courses through edX and Udacity, another for-profit online provider in Silicon Valley.
At the University of New Mexico, Provost Chaouki Abdallah said that about 15% of all the school's credit hours already come through its own online courses and he projected that the Coursera partnership could boost that as much as another 10% in the future.
He said he did not think many of those new online courses would wholly rely on Coursera's content from other universities but that New Mexico faculty likely will developing their own online material, blending it with lectures and presentations from other Coursera classes and maintain live classroom discussion and assignments.
He likened the online course material to "a talking textbook" and emphasized that most students will probably take a few online courses but still want a traditional classroom experience and campus life.
"I don't know how this is going to end up," he said of the new online initiatives. "I am looking at it as an experiment."