Clayton Marsh ’85
Clayton Marsh ’85

Princeton is teaming up with Stanford, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania to make lectures and other classroom materials available online for free.

The four schools are partnering with Coursera (, a company founded last year by two Stanford computer-science professors. Coursera’s offerings include video lectures with interactive quizzes and assignments and discussion forums. No credit or certificate will be offered to those who take the classes.

Among the 39 courses listed by Coursera in an April 18 announcement were eight by Princeton faculty members: “Introduction to Sociology,” taught by Professor Mitchell Duneier; “A History of the World Since 1300” by Professor Jeremy Adelman; two courses on analytic combinatorics by Professor Robert Sedgewick; two courses on algorithms by Sedgewick and senior lecturer Kevin Wayne; computer architecture by assistant professor David Wentzlaff; and statistics by senior lecturer Andrew Conway. In the first eight days, 78,000 people signed up for the Princeton offerings.

The University’s primary interest is to experiment with Web-based platforms to see how they might “enhance teaching and learning on our campus,” said Clayton Marsh ’85, deputy dean of the college. The University is paying the costs associated with developing the Coursera offerings to encourage innovations in teaching methods at Princeton, he said.

Duneier said his six-week online summer coursework “won’t be the same as my Princeton class, but will have some overlap with it.” He said he looks forward to seeing how his class translates to a global audience. “In sociology, there are a wide variety of ways of looking at a problem,” he said. “The perspectives of the people taking the class matter a great deal.”

His class will have two sessions per week: a 50-minute lecture with embedded quizzes and videos, and a seminar-style discussion of course readings. Essays will be evaluated through peer grading; there will be midterm and final exams.

Both Marsh and Duneier stressed that there is much more to learning at Princeton than what will be offered through Coursera, in terms of both student/faculty interaction and the residential-college experience.

Click here to browse the current Princeton offerings on Coursera.