Presidential caucus is topic of ISU's first MOOC

As the field of presidential candidates grows, so does interest in Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus selection process. Beginning this fall, University Professor Steffen Schmidt is offering four free massive open online course (MOOC) sessions to help explain the presidential caucus process to a global audience.

"A MOOC is free and allows people to participate at their convenience," Schmidt said. "The discussion forums provide great interactivity and the diversity of participants will make for excellent discussion."

The same course content will be offered in four different sessions, which begin Sept. 1, Oct. 13, Nov. 17 and Jan. 5. The course will focus on:

  • History of caucuses
  • Digging into caucuses
  • Role of media and technology
  • Future of caucuses

Schmidt said more than 600 participants already have enrolled in the MOOC sessions, ranging from high school students to political junkies and media personalities.

"ISU faculty and staff participation will be especially valuable because they often have participated in local political events," Schmidt said. "They are Iowa residents and personally invested in the Iowa caucuses. They are a very powerful force in spreading the word about the MOOC to students and others who might be interested in this course."

Course enrollment is open. The final session runs Jan. 5 to Feb. 2. Participants do not receive college credit. The course includes videos, readings, practice quizzes and interactive discussion forums. The course material will be accessible after the sessions are over, excluding the discussion forums.

"The time commitment is entirely up to the individual," Schmidt said. "Some will want to watch every interview, read every article and post every day to the discussion. Others may just want to graze the material they're interested in or skip material they're already familiar with."