Light & Verity

Levin’s next act: Silicon Valley CEO

Yale’s former president joins online education firm Coursera.

Mark Ostow

Mark Ostow

Rick Levin ’74 PhD is getting into the business of MOOCs: massive open online courses. View full image

Rick Levin ’74PhD and his wife Jane ’75PhD left for California for a year’s sabbatical last summer after Levin stepped down as president of Yale. But their stay on the West Coast has been extended: in April, Levin became chief executive officer of the Silicon Valley–based online education company Coursera.

Founded in 2012 by two Stanford professors, Coursera is one of the largest players in the growing business of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, partnering with more than 100 universities and other institutions to provide free online classes. The Chronicle of Higher Education described Levin’s hiring as an attempt by Coursera “to bolster its academic bona fides.”

During Levin’s tenure as president, Yale launched its own program, Open Yale Courses, in which professors’ lectures are recorded and made accessible to anyone online. But unlike MOOCs, they don’t include assessment or feedback from instructors. Yale has been slower than some of its peers to get involved with MOOCs, but the university announced its first partnership with Coursera last year.

Levin cited the ties to China that he cultivated as Yale president as a potential advantage for Coursera; China is already the company’s second-largest market, behind the United States. “It’s growing rapidly, and I’m very much hoping my relations with Chinese university presidents and the Ministry of Education will help that along,” Levin told the New York Times.

University spokesman Tom Conroy says that the Levins will keep their home in New Haven, and that Jane Levin, who has run the Directed Studies program in Yale College since 1999, will teach at least one more semester in the college.

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