When Professor Cathy Davidson of Duke University agreed to teach a Coursera course on the “History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education,” which will launch on January 27, 2014, she was determined to see how the course itself could help others to think about the many forms and functions of higher education in the 21st century. Co-founder of the 12,000+ member network HASTAC (hastac.org), an open community dedicated to innovations in learning, Professor Davidson sent a notice around to other network members to see if others might be interested in exploring the same topic in a variety of ways. More than thirty different universities and institutions in North America and internationally responded, offering courses, webinars, hangouts, and conferences on the topic. Along with the participants in Professor Davidson’s Coursera MOOC, they will also be making their research publicly available through a number of collaborative, crowdsourced tools on the hastac.org site, including a wiki of learning resources, pedagogical innovations, and successful institutional changes worldwide.
Davidson is also synchronizing her face-to-face Duke course on the “History and Future of Higher Education” with face-to-face courses on the topic taught by Professors Christopher Newfield (University of California at Santa Barbara) and David Palumbo-Liu (Stanford University). They will teach their courses at the same time, share some readings, and offer joint sessions via Google Hangouts. Professor Davidson’s students will work as community leaders in the Coursera course and engage in collaborative research projects with students at the other universities and on the MOOC. Coursera participants will be invited to many of the online and onsite public activities. The point of all of this is to inspire a worldwide community of students and faculty to think together about the future of higher education. Professor Davidson insists, “It’s not just a MOOC. It’s a movement.”