Knight Center celebrates three years of MOOCs in journalism, passes 70,000 students in its online courses - Journalism Courses by Knight Center

November 2, 2015

Knight Center celebrates three years of MOOCs in journalism, passes 70,000 students in its online courses

This post is also available in: English Spanish Portuguese (Brazil)

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas is celebrating the third anniversary of its unique program offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Big Online Courses (BOCs). So far, 62,803​ people from 169 countries have benefited from 19 MOOCs and five BOCs.

The innovative massive training program followed almost a decade of pioneering work by the Knight Center to reach journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean, with small online courses that benefited 7,235 people from 2003 to 2012. In total, the Knight Center’s distance learning program has reached more than 70,000 people.

“Our first MOOC started on October 28, 2012, and, as far as we know, this is still the only program in the world specializing in massive online courses in journalism,” said professor Rosental Alves, the founder and director of the Knight Center at the Moody College of Communication School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.

“The digital revolution has opened this innovative and cost effective way to democratize access to journalism skills training around the world. It is interesting that we use digital technologies to teach our courses and that most of the courses themselves have been focused on those same digital technologies and how they can be used to improve the production and distribution of news and information,” said Professor Alves.​

The first MOOC offered by the Knight Center, “Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization,” also became the most popular. It has been offered three times in English and once in Portuguese, drawing more than 14,000 people. Now, the Knight Center has opened a special edition of the course for Asia, in partnership with the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong. This new iteration of the course, taught by professor Alberto Cairo, Knight Chair at the University of Miami, will be offered from November 16 to December 13.

In addition to the courses about journalism, the Knight Center started in 2014 a collaboration with UNESCO and Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The goal was to develop a curriculum for massive online courses for judges and other operations of the judicial systems of Latin American countries, as part of a global effort to fight against impunity in crimes against journalists.

As a result of this collaboration, the Knight Center offered two courses in Mexico. First, a MOOC with the support of the Mexican Supreme Court, which had almost 1,000 judges and other jurists from all regions of Mexico. Second, this September, almost 400 people enrolled in the first course for a specific region, this time with the support of the government of the Mexican state of Coahuila.

On Oct. 26, more than 1,200 judges from all Latin American countries (except Cuba) started a new version of the course, “International Legal Framework on Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and the Safety of Journalists.”

The courses for judges were taught in Spanish by Catalina Botero, former Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, and Frank La Rue, Former Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression of the United Nations. Edison Lanza, current IACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, also is involved in the the latest iteration of the course.

The Knight Center has also offered three courses in Portuguese, in a collaboration with the Brazilian Association of Newspapers and with support from Google. The latest course, “Basic Techniques of Data Journalism,” had 5,000 students, making it the largest class to date in massive online training courses offered in Portuguese by the Knight Center. Google also supported a MOOC in Spanish on entrepreneurial journalism.

The MOOCs are asynchronous online courses, so students can take the classes at the times and days that are more convenient for them. The curriculum, however, is divided into weekly modules with video lectures, reading materials, interactive quizzes and discussion forums. All MOOCs are free, save for a small fee for certificates of completion, and open to people all over the world. They generally cover more broad, introductory topics.

The early success of the MOOCs allowed the Knight Center to open enrollment in 2015 for big online courses (BOCs). Unlike MOOCs, students must pay a fee for the BOCs and are offered more individualized and advanced course content. BOCs have been offered in English and Spanish on entrepreneurial journalism, data visualization and infographics with D3 and social media analytics.

The Knight Center’s courses are based on peer-to-peer instruction to share innovative best practices among journalists. Instead of self-directed training modules, the MOOCs and BOCs are instructor-based, with intense interaction, especially in the discussion forums of the weekly modules.

A total of 34 instructors from around the world have taught courses for the Knight Center. Most of the instructors are professional journalists or academics, internationally recognized as leaders in their fields. Some of those instructors work for organizations such as The New York Times, National Public Radio, The Washington PostHouston Chronicle, ProPublica, Poynter and universities in the United States, Mexico and Brazil.

All courses are taught using, the distance learning digital platform of the Knight Center. Students collaborate with each other and instructors via email, Twitter and Facebook groups. The Facebook groups remain active and grow long after the courses close, with some growing beyond 5,000 members.

Learn more about the courses offered by the Knight Center in the past year by following these links:

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas was created in 2002 by professor Rosental Calmon Alves, who holds the Knight Chair in Journalism and the UNESCO Chair in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin Moody College of Communication School of Journalism. In the past, the Center was financed by major grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as from other donors, such as Open Society Foundations.  Currently, the Center receives support from the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communication, revenue from courses and conferences, and donations from the public.​