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Gates Foundation backs U of T online courses

Psychology professor Steve Joordens is known for his innovative approach to teaching (photo by Ken Jones)

The University of Toronto has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop two online learning courses that will be delivered by award-winning U of T professors.

The two courses – the latest in U of T’s involvement in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) programs – are intended to “engage a broad range of students in successfully advancing their general and developmental education,” said the Foundation in announcing the award earlier this month.

“We are extremely pleased that such excellent faculty members are garnering Gates Foundation grants for the University of Toronto,” said Cheryl Misak, U of T vice-president and provost. “They are helping to keep us ahead of the curve in this potentially important arena.”

The first course, Introduction to Psychology, will be taught by Steve Joordens, a professor of psychology at U of T Scarborough. Joordens is a popular lecturer at the University and a winner of the 2011-2012 Teaching Award from the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

The second course, Statistical Science, will be delivered by Jeffrey Rosenthal and Alison Gibbs, both in the Department of Statistics in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

Rosenthal has won numerous awards for his research and teaching and is the author of a best-selling book, Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities.

Gibbs is credited with creating innovative programs and courses that promote collaboration between statistics students and those in other disciplines. She excels at outreach, having for many years chaired the Statistical Education Committee for the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC), developing connections between the society and students and teachers.

Students will be able to register for the courses soon and lectures will begin in the spring of 2013.

“We are excited to expand our offerings of open, online courses,” said Cheryl Regehr, vice-provost, academic programs. “Thanks to this generous grant, we have the opportunity to bring even more of our award winning faculty to the world.”

These two U of T courses are among those delivered by the university through Coursera, a consortium of 33 top-ranked international universities that was established earlier this year to provide open online courses. To date, almost two million students worldwide have registered to take Coursera courses.

December 06, 2012