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:

6 thoughts on “Genetics and Evolution, Day One

    • Yvonne Belanger Post author

      Descriptions of all available courses from Duke as well as other institutions, including information on which courses are currently open for enrollment is available via Coursera at this URL:

  1. Muvaffak GOZAYDIN

    Ms Belanger
    I have been involved online for the last 17 years .
    Massive ONLINE was my dream .

    I had claimed that to reach the scale one needs to be global .
    Now we see that I had been right.
    Even your first course is followed by only 13-15 % Americans .
    MITx first course were also followed by only 13 % Americans
    Now everybody says Coursera and Udacity their courses are followed by 120 countries . Probably again only 10-15 % Americans.
    Does that mean Massive ONLINE will not solve the HE Problem of USA. It seems Americans do not care for massive online .
    It is sad to say Americans do not care for HE at all.
    Colleges are expensive is just an excuse .
    I should say that MITx courses are just best courses available in the world .

  2. Muvaffak GOZAYDIN

    We, all MOOCs , are on the wrong track.
    The problem in the USA is college education for 18-22 years olds .
    None of these MOOCs except MITx , appeals to 18-22 years olds potential college students .
    They are all adult courses .
    They are deceiving people saying they are free. Coursera and Udacity all declared that they will charge something later .

    Even Coursera declared that ” they do not have a business plan, they do not know how to finance the project ”
    Right . What on the earth, still even elite universities are following Coursera with their venture providing free online courses . Even this first course shows that attendance is just nothing . Meanningless.

    I believe in Massive ONLINE
    But please make a feasibility project before you proceed.
    My advice :
    Today demand is by 18-22 years olds .
    1.- This year as DUKE, provide only 20 online courses for freshmen, Massive. Courses toward a degree . Fee is only $ 100 may be less. Use the same platform and techniques MIT is using . You will get 1,000- 10,000 registration and drop outs will be only 15 %
    2.- Next year provide another 20 courses for sophomores again at $ 100 or so .
    And go on like that .

    Eventually you will have 50,000-100,000 online students collecting $ 10-50 million a year . The more students you have the more you reduce the fee.

    Look up University of Phoenix. They have 650,000 students with that quality you know . And they provide degrees as well .
    They charge about $ 900-1000 per course . Quality ????? And make $ 1 billion profit .

    Shame on us .

  3. Phillip Brookes

    This is very interesting, and I put my name down for it some months ago. However, I have not yet found where to download the videos or any other material. This is very disappointing. Please advise.

    • Yvonne Belanger Post author

      Registered students can “Go to class” via the Coursera home page. Once within the course site, use the Lectures link on the left hand menu to access the video course content.

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