A New Take on the MOOC

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A New Take on the MOOC

Knight Center offers professional training workshops designed for a Web audience

AUSTIN, Texas

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas in the College of Communication is no stranger to the national trend of MOOCs, having offered three of the courses since October of 2012.

But as Director Rosental Alves points out, the Knight Center is setting a trend of its own – offering out-of-the-ordinary MOOCs.

"Most MOOCs are college courses that have been adapted to be shared over the Internet," Alves said. "Ours are professional training workshops specifically designed for a Web audience."

More than 7,000 people from a wide range of industries and countries signed up for the first two courses, titled "Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization." Taught by Alberto Cairo, a lecturer at the University of Miami and an expert in data visualization, the course focused on how to communicate and analyze data through graphics.

Susana Nunes, a communications professional based in France, is one of the inaugural students.

"I signed up for this MOOC because I wanted to learn more about data visualization, and I would never manage to sign up for – or better, succeed in following – a more conventional course while working," Nunes said. "Now, I know what works and what doesn't work... I'm applying it in my job and in my everyday life."

Teresa Curlin, a human resources analyst based in North Carolina, also appreciated the course's practicality. After each lesson, she found opportunities to apply her knowledge at work – whether by constructing a visual data summary or asking more detailed questions as she explored data.

"This class differed from other MOOCs and online classes in quality," Curlin said. "The course was a good balance of video lectures, reading, projects and interacting with other participants. Mr. Cairo is very knowledgeable and organized in the way he shares his knowledge."

At the conclusion of the course, students can apply for a certificate of completion.

In addition to offering a broad-based professional MOOC, the Knight Center is offering a Spanish-language MOOC that is more specialized. Taught by renowned Colombian journalist María Teresa Ronderos, "How to Improve Electoral Coverage" runs from March 18 through April 19.

"This is a really new territory for all of us," Alves said. "We're learning a lot in the process, dealing with a very low budget, experimenting with different techniques, using peer evaluations."

Alves shared some of his findings in a presentation titled "The Promise and Perils of MOOCs" in late March. 


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Media Contact:
Nick Hundley, (512) 471-7209