Online teacher flabbergasted at vast global participation in free UW course

A global audience of students has now finished the third week of “Introduction to Public Speaking,” the free online class being offered by the University of Washington, The Seattle Times reports. We decided this week to check in with senior lecturer Matt McGarrity, by email, and find out how the course is going from his side of the computer. … In week one, there was a discussion forum thread that emerged talking about my speech rate (generally fast) and gestures. The thread quickly turned into a fascinating global discussion about intercultural practices and expectations around public speaking. The introductory speech was amazing. It was a huge opportunity to just catch a glimpse of the rest of the world. I am a bit flabbergasted that thousands of people recorded and uploaded a speech for discussion. I have been surprised at how much the students have taken the content and made this experience their own. As a teacher, I try to shape the student experience, but here there are simply too many people and things going on. As I wander through the course online, I’ll find people setting up practice groups in their native languages, discussing wildly divergent topics. Stuff I never would have anticipated, but somehow the course content prompted it. As for what’s more of a challenge? I spend a lot of time on the discussion forums. The way Coursera set up the forum platform is difficult. There’s nothing to do about it on my end. But there are pages upon pages of threads with 2-5 posts. I hop around the forums and speak where I can, but this forum structure needs pruning.

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