Sabato introduces Kennedy MOOC

Online course offers public exposure, generates no revenue Politics professor says


The University Center for Politics unveiled a new Massive Open Online Course earlier this month entitled “The Kennedy Half Century.” It will be taught by nationally recognized Politics Prof. Larry Sabato.

The four-week course begins Oct. 21 and will feature at least two hours of video instruction each week. According to the Coursera website, the platform where the course will be offered, “students will learn the compelling story of how [John F. Kennedy’s] life, administration and tragic death have influenced the general public, the media and each of the nine U.S. presidents who followed over The Kennedy Half Century.”

The University Center for Politics unveiled Politics Prof. Larry Sabato’s new Massive Open Online Course, The Kennedy Half Century, earlier this month.

Sabato said in an email he is teaching the course at the request of University President Teresa Sullivan.

“She asked months before she was briefly and unwisely terminated by the Board of Visitors, in part because she was supposedly insufficiently interested in online education,” Sabato said in an email. “A funny thing, that.”

Sabato said the process of creating a MOOC was very different than preparing for a traditional course.

“In the classroom, for better or worse, the professor can make eye contact and is a living presence,” Sabato said. “The MOOC is a kind of TV series.”

The MOOC is a part of several initiatives the Center for Politics has planned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination. Sabato is releasing his newest book “The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy” in mid-October, coinciding with the beginning of the MOOC. The Center is also creating an hour-long PBS documentary in partnership with Community Idea Stations.

Sabato said his MOOC and others offer free, quality education to the public and spread the University’s brand globally.

“[The MOOC] broadens the universe of people receiving quality education,” Sabato said. “And MOOCs can be combined with the classroom to enrich the education of our own students.”

Sabato added that MOOCs present neither an opportunity for revenue nor a complete classroom experience. He said recent conversations around the direction of higher education at the University have put too much emphasis on the online courses.

“It’s a money loser,” Sabato said. “MOOCs are enormously expensive to produce, and they make zero money. This is the kind of business model only bankrupt corporations could love.”

Sabato obtained funding for the course from the Center and his personal funds, but the University is “helping substantially,” drawing from the operating budget.

Sabato is one of 11 University professors offering MOOCs on Coursera in the next year.

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