Online Course on Fluid Power Attracts Thousands of Students

Achievement date: 

Professors affiliated with the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at the University of Minnesota, taught a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on Coursera titled “Fundamentals of Fluid Power.” The free, six-week course, which was endorsed by the National Fluid Power Association,  attracted 8,399 students from 149 countries. 


In this intense and hugely popular course, students learned (1) the benefits and limitations of fluid power compared with other power transmission technologies; (2) the function of common hydraulic components; (3) how to formulate and analyze models of hydraulic components and circuits; and (4) how to design hydraulic circuits for specific system requirements. Entry-level engineers, senior-level undergraduate students, and entry-level graduate students were the targeted audience for the course; these prospective fluid power practitioners benefited significantly from this effort.


The course (see figure) consisted of 34 on-location and in-studio video lectures 5-12 minutes in length, weekly homework assignments and quizzes, and an active discussion forum. MathWorks gave each student a limited-time license to SimHydraulics, which was used in lectures and homework assignments to simulate the behavior and performance of circuits.

Taught by University of Minnesota Professors James Van de Ven and William Durfee, the course attracted students from countries with the following continental breakdowns: 31% Asia, 29% North America, 22% Europe, 9% Africa, and 8% South America. Of the large group of students enrolled in the course, 13.5% watched all the videos and 6.7% completed all the quizzes.


Coursera is a venture-backed, for-profit educational technology company that offers MOOCs. Working with top universities and other organizations, Coursera offers courses in many subjects. (See