Medill prof evaluates first month of teaching MOOC in Guardian op-ed

Paulina Firozi, Managing Editor

Medill Prof. Owen Youngman, one of several Northwestern professors teaching a massive open online course this quarter, addressed questions about the program in an op-ed published Thursday in the Guardian.

Youngman’s course, Understanding Media by Understanding Google, has about 20,000 active members, though 45,000 people had initially enrolled. His piece, centered on his first month of teaching the class, discusses how institutions can adapt to the learning curves of students.

Youngman wrote that he finds the most fruitful conversations on the online class discussion forum, where he said he has engaged more than 250 times himself. He said he didn’t realize how the geographic range of the students’ backgrounds — only 20 percent of whom report living in the U.S. — would affect the discussion, as would their various education levels. The op-ed indicates 80 percent of the students have four-year college degrees or better.

“There, in hundreds of asynchronous conversations with peers in every time zone, thousands of learners are working out what they think about the intersection of the web with journalism and media, as they peer through the lens provided by this one particular company,” Youngman wrote.

Youngman’s class is one of three MOOCs the University launched at the beginning of Fall Quarter. McCormick Prof. Todd Murphey is teaching Everything is the Same: Modeling Engineered Systems, and School of Law clinical professors Esther Barron and Steve Reed are instructing Law and the Entrepreneur.

— Paulina Firozi