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Coursera Eyes Teacher Training With New MOOC Partners

Coursera, the massive-open-online-course provider, announced on Wednesday that it was expanding into teacher education.

The company said it would offer MOOCs taught by instructors in graduate programs at the Universities of California at Irvine, Virginia, and Washington; at the Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt Universities; and at some nonaffiliated organizations that train teachers.

The move marked a shift for the year-old company, which previously had focused on the traditional university curriculum. The new offerings will include practical courses—sample title, “Surviving Your Rookie Year of Teaching: Three Key Ideas and High Leverage Techniques,” from the nonprofit Match Education—as well as more-theoretical material, such as a course unit on early-childhood development from the University of Virginia.

Daphne Koller, a co-founder of Coursera, said the company saw the move as a way to improve elementary and secondary education. “Higher education is obviously very important,” she said, “but for many countries, the problem starts a lot sooner.”

Ms. Koller said she hoped some school districts would allow teachers to use Coursera’s courses to satisfy professional-development requirements.

Some of the new teacher-education MOOCs will be part of the company’s Signature Track program, where students pay for the opportunity to take proctored examinations and receive special certificates. The Signature Track program, unveiled in January, has quickly become one of Coursera’s more promising revenue streams, generating $220,000 in its first few months.

Teacher-education programs historically have provided reliable revenue to many universities, said Robert C. Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.

MOOCs are not likely to supplant those programs, said Mr. Pianta, but it is possible that the massive online courses could prove to be a viable mode of delivery for “a small percentage” of the curriculum. “Let’s experiment,” the dean said, “let’s find out.”

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