MOOCs for Duke

DAA launches online courses exclusively for alumni

In the past five years, MOOCs—massive open online courses—have lived up to at least one part of their name. With hundreds of thousands of people enrolling in the most popular listings on sites like Coursera, MOOCs are indeed massive. But, as exciting as it may be to trade notes on Dan Ariely’s (Ph.D. ’98) theory of irrational behavior with a banker in Kazakhstan, sometimes you want something a bit more intimate.

Enter the DAA’s new “alumni-exclusive” MOOCs. Created with the help of Duke’s Office of Digital and Online Educational Initiatives, the new courses offer alumni a chance to re-create the Duke classroom experience, taking classes with top professors along with fellow members of the Duke community.

DAA will launch its first alumni-exclusive course in June, a six-lecture course from cultural anthropology professor Orin Starn titled “Sports and Society.” Course material is designed to be easily consumable, with lectures of only eight to ten minutes. Enrollees have the option of visiting Duke for an in-person class to cap off the course.

Starn says the course format is opening a new way to connect with alumni on a more personal level. “The world of online education is a whole new and still relatively unexplored frontier,” he says. “It’s a way for keeping open the flow of learning and interchange between faculty and graduates once they’ve left campus. I stay in touch with many of my former students, but I always wish I had much more contact. This is a way to do that.”

Jenn Chambers ’01, director of DAA’s alumni education programs, says the new online courses are part of a larger effort to experiment with new kinds of educational programming that fit into the busy lives of Blue Devils throughout the world.

“Whether you have a few minutes, a few days, or a few weeks, there really is something for everyone.”

Chambers notes that most Coursera courses run between two and four months, making them well-suited for people who want an in-depth understanding of a particular topic. Coursera and other sites also offer options for earning certificates upon completing courses. DAA’s new courses, however, are designed to appeal to broader intellectual curiosities and showcase some of Duke’s top lecturers.

Chambers plans to feature DAA’s Faculty Fellows, for example, in alumni-exclusive course formats. DAA recently added new professors to the fellows program, started in 2012 to bring Duke’s top faculty to alumni groups around the country.

Alumni wanting educational opportunities with an even shorter time commitment can look forward to DAA’s new “instant education.” Chambers says she is planning 60-second videos of faculty members offering their expertise on timely topics, and Google Hangouts with multiple faculty members who will discuss the same topic from different perspectives.

“One common quality in almost every alumnus is the desire to learn. It’s a thirst for knowledge and understanding that is characteristic of almost every student and one of the reasons that they attended Duke,” Chambers says. “We are able to give alumni exclusive access, unique Duke experiences, and creative programming they cannot find anywhere else.”

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Begun in 2012, the DAA Faculty Fellows program taps top Duke professors to teach alumni-exclusive online courses, engage with alumni via campus lectures and events, and host alumni educational events in cities throughout the country during a three-year term. Four new fellows were named in 2015:

Mohamed Noor

Title: Earl D. McLean Professor and chair of biology

Education: College of William and Mary (B.S.) and the University of Chicago (Ph.D.)

Research interests: Molecular evolution, evolutionary genetics, how genetic changes lead to new species

Lab companion: Fruit flies, known by their scientific name as Drosophila. Noor studies their mating habits and offspring to better understand molecular evolution.

On Coursera: “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution”

Follow the fellow: @mafnoor

Emma Rasiel

Title: Associate professor of the practice of economics, teaching director of the Duke Financial Economics Center, director of the Duke in New York program

Education: Oxford University (B.S., A.M.), Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (M.B.A.), Fuqua School (Ph.D.)

Research interests: Behavioral economics and how it relates to health care

In another life: Rasiel traded bond options as an executive director at Goldman Sachs in London.

Class act: Rasiel keeps track of former students working on Wall Street and is known to invite them to speak to her classes.

David Schanzer

Title: Associate professor of the practice in the Sanford School, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security

Education: Harvard University (A.B., J.D.)

Research interests: National security, civil liberties, emergency preparedness, terrorism, bioterrorism

Boots on the ground: From 2003 to 2005, Schanzer was the Democratic staff director for the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security.

On Coursera: Responding to 911: Counter-terrorism Policy in the 21st Century

Follow the fellow: @schanzerdavid

D. Sunshine Hillygus

Title: Associate professor of political science, director of Duke Initiative on Survey Methodology

Education: University of Arkansas (B.S., A.M.) and Stanford University (A.M., Ph.D.)

Research interests: American political behavior, public opinion, survey methods, campaigns, and elections

Drilling for data: Hillygus began her teaching career at Harvard University, where she was the founding director of the university’s Program on Survey Research.

Giving back: Since 2012, Hillygus has served on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Scientific Advisory Committee, a volunteer-based, 21-member committee that advises the bureau on data collection, statistical analysis, and survey methodology.

Still a fan: Hillygus features an audio recording of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ famous hog call on her website.

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