Genetics and Evolution, Day One

Yesterday (Wednesday October 10) we were pleased to see the launch of Duke’s second Coursera MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution.” Led by Dr. Mohamed Noor, the course bills itself as “a whirlwind introduction to evolution and genetics.”

As we observed in Duke’s first Coursera MOOC on Bioelectricity, the course discussion boards lit up almost immediately with students eager to begin. The site recorded over 1000 posts and 10,000 comments in the past 24 hours. As expected, virtual and in-person study groups began to form right away (both within the course site and outside of it).

Who are these students and where are they? Based on a pre-course questionnaire sent out by the instructor, over 120 countries are represented and 2/3 of the students reside outside of the United States. Professor Noor is “delighted at the level of activity and enthusiasm from the students enrolled in the course from the first day, and happy to see the breadth of students participating– 8th graders to retirees, those in evolution graduate programs to those who haven’t finished high school, the breadth of countries represented – for example,there were enough people from the Philippines enrolled to organize a Filipino study group!”

To give a blurred snapshot of a rapidly moving target, here are few quick numbers about the course since its launch yesterday:

  • Active students: 11,815 (39% of over 30,000 who enrolled since the course was announced in July)
    • Who’ve watched or downloaded video: 8125 (68% of active students)
    • Who responded to an in-video poll, “Are there ‘holes’ in the evidence for evolution?”: 4310
    • Who have posted or commented in the forums: 708
  • Published video in the first week of the course: 87 minutes
  • Most ‘upvoted’ threads on the discussion forums so far: A tie between “Done for the week 🙁” [a thread for students finished with the posted lectures already who are eager for more] and “Class Map: Add a pin for your town
  • New students who began working in the course site in the past 10 minutes: 50!

Professor Noor commented today, “It’s going to be hard for me to restrain myself from spending many hours a day watching the discussion forum posts that appear literally almost every minute!”

For more information on Duke’s online courses, click here:


Author: Yvonne Belanger

Prior to May of 2013, Yvonne led assessment and program evaluation for CIT and for university initiatives in which CIT takes a leading role. She also provided leadership to library assessment efforts.