Introduction to Genetics and Evolution, a preliminary report

On Monday December 17, Duke University’s second MOOC, “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution” came to a successful conclusion as 1705 students were issued a Statement of Accomplishment signed by Professor Mohamed Noor, Earl D. McLean Professor and associate chair of biology.

With a peak enrollment near 33,000, this course is Duke’s largest completed MOOC to date. About half of the enrolled students logged in after the course was opened, and over 6400 students submitted the problem set for the first week. Ultimately, 2164 students took both the midterm and final and 1705 of those students (nearly 80%) completed the course requirements. Based on the Facebook course page and forums in Coursera, a number of participants plan to repeat the 10 week course when it is offered again beginning in January 2013. In a pattern typical of MOOCs, activity peaked during the first two weeks of the course.

With an average 74 minutes of video per week plus problem sets, most successful students spent more than 4 hours per week on course activities. The course’s forums were particularly educational, lively and heart-warming. In addition to many hundreds of threads discussing the concepts in the videos and problem sets, students encouraged and supported each other within the course that they frequently found to be very challenging, and praised of Dr. Noor for his personable style and consistent engagement.  Justin Johnsen, the course TA, was also a popular participant in the forums, responding to students and keeping a blog to share course statistics with the participants. For a more human perspective on the course experience, see CIT’s recent post, Meet some Coursera students studying Genetics & Evolution.

Students in the forums said they would miss their ‘Sir Noor’ (as the class dubbed him via the forums) and his cheery “Hello” which opened each video. As one student noted, “Every time Professor Noor ends a video by saying, ‘I hope you enjoyed this,’ I say out loud, ‘ABSOLUTELY I enjoyed it!’”

In his final message to the students, Professor Noor commented,

“I’ve truly loved teaching this class (it’s my first experience with a MOOC) – I feel like I’ve made thousands of new friends and learned a lot from your discussion forum posts. You’ve also helped me refine my understanding of the material with your questions… I hope to apply that refinement to future iterations of the class.”

Over 700 responses have already been received to the end of course survey distributed this morning; 95% of respondents rated the course 5 or higher on a 7 point scale (7=excellent).

A more complete analysis of this course will be available in January.

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