University launches new MOOC era with history course

The University's partnership with Coursera kicked off Tuesday afternoon


History Prof. Philip Zelikow began teaching one of the first Massive Open Online Courses at the University Tuesday afternoon.

The University partnered with the online education program Coursera to broadcast HIST 2002, “The Modern World: Global History since 1760,” to more than 40,000 students worldwide and two 60 student sections here at the University.

“It’s a pretty radical design,” said Zelikow. “You can’t use your standard lecture and do this. I’m creating 91 distinct video presentations … It builds on my own classroom material.”

Brandon Kist, recent University graduate and lead course assistant for the course, helped Zelikow create the class. For the program, Zelikow began planning last semester and recorded the first video presentations in the beginning of October. He had to pre-record lectures, editing them to create a polished online lecture series.

“It’s a really extended process,” Kist said.

The online classes are currently offered for free and do not count for any credit.

The ability to use MOOCs created new teaching avenues for Zelikow. Since the lectures have been pre-recorded, Zelikow uses the assigned lecture time to instead have a prolonged discussion with University students. Students, both in and out of the University, will watch the lectures online, but the University students will get the benefit of an in-person interaction with the professor.

“The time in the classroom is with a different vibe,” Zelikow said. “Instead of having the discussion with the graduate student, [University students] get the discussion with the high-price professor.”

University students also enjoy another component in addition to the online lecture and professor-led discussion: graduate-student-led history labs. During these labs, students review primary source documents from a specific era and region of the world, then delve deeper into the topics with the graduate student instructors.

“I’m leveraging the MOOC to do something here which is really interesting,” Zelikow said.

related stories