Iowa State University to offer Iowa Caucuses MOOC

AMES, Iowa – It happens every four years. Iowa voters meet in churches, schools, even living rooms, to be part of the first-in-the-nation stop for presidential hopefuls. The Iowa Caucuses have helped launch and end the aspirations of many candidates. This initial test in the presidential selection process will be the focus for a new massive open online course (MOOC) at Iowa State University.

University Professor Steffen Schmidt, who has analyzed every presidential caucus for the past 40 years, will teach the online course. The Iowa Caucuses are a unique process that attracts media attention from around the world. Schmidt hopes reporters as well as interested voters will take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about how the process works, the history of the caucuses, their future and the impact of Iowa’s status as the first political battleground.   

“The Iowa Caucuses are one of the most important events in the presidential election process,” Schmidt said. “Iowa is small enough and not very expensive, so unknown and underfunded candidates have a chance to get on the radar screen and make a case for themselves.”   

The class will be offered in September 2015, leading up to the Iowa Caucuses in early 2016. Anyone can enroll in the MOOC for free and access the course online. MOOCs are a relatively new concept that offers course material and information to a large number of people. Students enrolled in the Iowa Caucuses MOOC can work at their own pace to complete the various units that will feature videos, readings, small lectures and interactive forums for discussion with other participants. The course will take approximately four weeks to complete.   

This is the first MOOC offered by Iowa State. Students will not earn college credit, but will receive a certificate for completing the quizzes and earning 70 percent in the course. Jonathan Wickert, senior vice president and provost, says this is an opportunity to reach thousands of people who want to learn more or are just curious about the caucus process.

“Iowa State is uniquely positioned to offer this MOOC given our location and expertise. We have a front-row seat for the caucuses and participants will gain a better understanding of the process,” Wickert said. “We also hope this experience will provide a blueprint for future MOOC opportunities at Iowa State.”

Students can start registering for the class in the summer of 2015. ISU’s Engineering-LAS Online Learning program will oversee the MOOC development and delivery.