Knight Center's first massive open online course concludes, receives outstanding student reviews - Journalism Courses by Knight Center
knight Center MOOC

December 11, 2012

Knight Center’s first massive open online course concludes, receives outstanding student reviews

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The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas’ ambitious Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), which attracted more than 2,000 students from 109 countries, concluded its first edition with resounding success on Saturday, Dec. 8. The pioneering course – the first of its kind in journalism training – was widely popular and has received outstanding reviews from students.

The response to the course, “Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization” with Instructor Alberto Cairo, was so positive that an identical iteration will be offered next month. Click here to register now for the second edition of this six-week MOOC in English, which will start on Jan. 12, 2013 and end on Feb. 23. More information about the course and how to enroll in it can be found here. Nearly 4,000 students have already signed up for the course, which was announced a little more than a week ago.

The MOOC will be taught again by Cairo, an internationally renowned expert in the field who teaches at the University of Miami. Cairo developed an original syllabus to fit these massive classes.

“We are grateful to Alberto Cairo, who has been tireless and an outstanding instructor of the first MOOC in journalism,” said Professor Rosental Alves, founder and director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. “And we are also thankful to the 2,000 people who registered for this course, especially those who complete all the quizzes, projects and other requirements. This experiment of the Knight Center has been a success thanks to them and our team, who has worked very hard on it.”

The first edition of the course began on Oct. 28 and concluded last weekend. The course had more than 2,000 students from countries like the U.S., Spain, Brazil, United Kingdom, Mexico, Australia, India, Netherlands, Ukraine, Egypt, Russia and South Africa.

During the course, Cairo engaged in several discussions with hundreds of students from around the world. The course included video lectures, tutorials, reading materials, exercises and quizzes. Forums were available for discussion topics related to each weekly module, and students were invited to upload their work, which received feedback from the instructor and their peers.

Several students opened new blogs just to document their experiences throughout the course. Some of them include participants Laura GentryAdele GilpinBen Jones, and Sister Edith.

“When I first heard of the massive online open course on data visualization at the Knight Center of the University of Texas, it seemed the term had been invented for this class,” said participant Francis Gagnon on his blog. “Alberto Cairo brings a perspective that I had not seen anywhere else: the importance of the narrative.”

“I’m finding it hard to stay away from the habit of pretty(fying) and beautifying graphics for the sake of its form,” said student Saakshita Prabhakar. “A chance to learn the basics I never knew of is a privilege.”

“Now, the million dollar question is whether this MOOC is way better than the average MOOC, and now I am completely spoiled and other MOOCs will feel lame and mediocre by comparison,” said participant SocProf in his review of the course.

Participants were encouraged to sketch out ideas and thoughts about the course content through different mediums and upload to the discussion forums. Below are some of the sketchnotes taken by participant Javier Sandoval of Cairo’s second lecture:

bs“Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization” is the first course that the Knight Center has offered through its new MOOC platform. Unlike most MOOCs, which typically only offer videos of regular college classes and reading materials, the Knight Center’s pioneering MOOC has been designed especially for this new, massive format featuring student-student and instructor-student interactions.

The MOOC will be free for anyone from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. It will be open to journalists and non-journalists alike.

“Journalism is not a monopoly of journalists anymore, as we all know,” Alves said. “Everyone can commit acts of journalism, and there are lots of things out there that look like journalism but aren’t journalism, so it is important not only to spread the gospel of “media literacy” – or, as I prefer, “news literacy” – but also to spread journalism training to everyone who wants to learn. It’s time to democratize journalism techniques, tell people how we journalists work, why we tell stories in those particular ways and what ethical principles we follow. So why not use the MOOCs to teach journalism to as many people as possible?”

Just like the first edition of the course, Cairo’s second class will focus on how to work with graphics to communicate and analyze data. Previous experience in information graphics and visualization is not needed to take this course. With the readings, video lectures and tutorials available, participants will acquire enough skills to start producing compelling, simple infographics almost immediately. Participants can expect to spend 4-6 hours per week on the course.

Even though the course will be free, participants who want to receive a certificate will need to pay online a $30 administrative fee via credit card. The certificate will be issued only to students who actively participated in the course and who complied with most of the course requirements, such as quizzes and exercises. The certificates will be sent via email as a PDF document. No formal course credit of any kind is associated with the certificate.

Alberto Cairo
Alberto Cairo

Cairo is a renowned expert in the field of infographics. He is currently a professor at the University of Miami’s School of Communication and has taught several regular online courses at the Knight Center’s distance learning platform. Chapters of Cairo’s new book, The Functional Art are used in the course. He also uses his Twitter account @AlbertoCairo to complement class discussions.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas was created in 2002 by Professor Rosental Alves at the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism thanks to a generous donation from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has been supporting it continually. The Center also receives major contributions from the Open Society Foundations and The University of Texas at Austin. The Center’s main goal is to help journalists in Latin American and the Caribbean to improve the quality of journalism in their countries.