The next miracle (v11.1): Owen Youngman

Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy, Medill / Northwestern

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After the MOOC

Student interest in topics in the Coursera MOOC "Understanding Media by Understanding Google"

Your mileage may vary. Hmm, I say that a lot.

The final assignments arrived in early November. The grades went out a week later (and in theory 1,196 people started celebrating the fact that they passed). So what have I been doing, you might ask, since I finished teaching Northwestern’s first massively open online course?

Mostly, I have been trying to figure out what actually happened over the six weeks of “Understanding Media by Understanding Google” on Coursera, and then start writing about it (spoiler alert: links below). Continue reading

So is it lonely in MOOClandia?


Jeff Jarvis (bottom left), my remote-controlled Android robot (background), and I hang out with students in Evanston and around the globe on Oct. 17.

The students in “Understanding Media by Understanding Google” are nearing the end of their six-week sojourn in the land of Medill’s first massively open online course. Our closing topics are Google’s forays into social media, and then a second bite out of the privacy apple: a lecture entitled “The Private, the Public, the Politic(s).” Central content comes from Jeff Jarvis, Siva Vaidhyanathan, and Eli Pariser, supplemented with on-camera interviews on the latter topic with Jarvis and Vaidhyanathan.

The students’ final written homework assignment? “Take a position on whether our decreasing anonymity online, and the increases in data collection and information sharing that accompany this decrease, either improves or damages 21st-century life.” With citations, of course. I wonder if anyone will cite the new Dave Eggers novel

Even though the video lectures were taped over the summer, the activity in the course’s discussion forums is keeping us up to date. Thanks to well over 20,000 posts and comments in more than 2,500 threads, little that has been in the news about the intersection of Google and the media has escaped notice since the course launched on Sept. 16.

I’ve been working to pay attention, and have been called on to start sharing what I notice. Last Thursday, for example, The Guardian published some of my observations; the 60 comments beneath the piece help to highlight how strongly people already feel about MOOCs, whether or not they have tried one. I also made a couple of presentations on campus — one at a faculty forum on teaching, learning and assessment, the other at a homecoming-weekend gathering of interested alumni. And I have been studying the results of a mid-course survey that I served up to students after three weeks had gone by. Continue reading

Hearing MOOC-steps, worldwide

Countries (or states) with at least 1 student in this MOOC. Updated 9/19.


Construction at Northwestern 9/13/2013

Construction at Northwestern, #throughglass

It’s still fairly quiet here on the Northwestern campus. The main sounds you seem to hear–in addition to those of ongoing construction (as at right)–are those of the marching band as it rehearses for the second of the three home football games that will be played before classes begin on Sept. 24.

Another place there has been a fair amount of activity, not surprisingly, is anyplace where someone is working to get ready for the launch of our massively open online courses. Mine begins Monday, just as the Class of 2017 hits Evanston for Wildcat Welcome week, and has begun to attract some interest. Herewith a brief summary…

Today (Sept. 13), Knight Foundation, which endowed the chair I hold here at Medill, published a piece constructed around a conversation we had last week. Earlier this week, Northwestern took a look at all 3 upcoming courses to be offered through Coursera, plus a sidebar based on interviews with three students enrolled in mine. As of this writing, I have been invited to be a guest on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” this coming Monday, launch day. And my colleague Michele Weldon suggested I write a brief piece about my observations on the course-creation process, and lo and behold, here it is at the Huffington Post.

More interesting has been my first taste of the worldwide nature of the student body. Appropriately enough, I created a private Google+ community for them early in the week so they could begin to engage with one another in advance of the release of the course materials.

I should have been prepared for what came next, but I really wasn’t: hundreds of students from among the 41,000 enrollees gravitated there immediately, introducing themselves, their locations, and their goals to each other. The quick map linked above shows the range of places identified in this earliest of activity. University and faculty experimentation with MOOCs has been partly driven by a desire to overcome barriers, such as geography, that may stand between people and education; seeing people from Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka and Oman showing up has made that theory quite real.

As I said at HuffPo: So far, so good. Let’s see what the next six weeks bring.

The MOOC-ing finger writes, and then updates the data

How do you usually think of Google?

What the upcoming MOOC “Understanding Media by Understanding Google” is, in a way, all about.

Back in April I posted some charts and data from an optional survey presented to students who enroll in my Coursera MOOC, “Understanding Media by Understanding Google.” At that early juncture–I had yet to videotape a single lecture–about 13,000 people had signed up; shortly thereafter, enrollment was paused until we set a firm start date.

Now we’re just 10 days or so away from the Sept. 16 launch, a fine time to update both the registration total (40,000) and the high-level research (3,000 respondents, up from 1,001 all those months ago). Has anything changed as the enrollment has grown, and as the number of people with Coursera accounts has touched 4 million?

Not surprisingly, we can answer both “yes” and “no.” In the “no” category, many of the numbers are so similar I won’t even bother to recreate the graphics. (The pie chart above is one that I didn’t include last time.) To wit:

  • About the same percentage of respondents has never taken a MOOC before (57% of the first thousand, 56% of the entire sample).
  • About the same percentage of people classify themselves as “geeks” or “Internet experts”–47% then, 48% now. (A self-reported geek says that “my friends turn to me first for help with problems,” while a self-reported expert says “I always know what I’m doing” online.)
  • When asked “Where do you learn about the world?”, the rank of six possible media choices didn’t change: The Web (2,821 out of 3,000), books (1,737), TV (1,638), newspapers (1,577), magazines (1,278), and radio (999). (They’re readers!)

The differences come in the reasons that were cited for taking this course. I asked students to rate the importance of several criteria on a scale from “very important” to “not important.” The raw numbers are interesting enough, but more tellingly, some of the proportions shifted meaningfully over the course of the survey. Continue reading