Online Upstart’s Goal: MOOC Lectures That Go Viral

26 Jun

By Avi Wolfman-Arent

Donald J. Boudreaux’s five-minute video lecture on the evolution of human prosperity—complete with slick animation, studio lighting, and killer graphics—looks seamless. Making it, he says, was anything but.

“It was hard,” says Mr. Boudreaux, an economics professor at George Mason University. “There were a lot of takes.”

In all, he spent two full days filming the four lectures that compose his new course, “Everyday Economics.” The result—produced by a professional film studio in San Francisco—is undeniably chic. In the winding path online education has taken, it marks a turn toward video lectures so short, scrumptious, and simple they can stand alone, and perhaps even go viral.

“For this type of material, let’s face it, we’re competing with BuzzFeed,” says Alex Tabarrok, a fellow professor at George Mason and co-founder of Marginal Revolution University, the site offering Mr. Boudreaux’s course. Mr. Tabarrok and another George Mason professor, Tyler Cowen, started Marginal Revolution University in late 2012 as an independent, online platform for economics education. Back then, they touted how easy and cheap it was to slap their bare-bones lectures on the internet.

Now they’re looking beyond the chalk-and-talk format. “We’ve got to be cutesy,” Mr. Tabarrok says. “We’ve got to use all of the technology.”

Using a high-production-values format for online lectures isn’t exclusive to Marginal Revolution University—far from it. Large providers such as edX and Udacity feature similarly stylish videos. But Marginal Revolution University’s evolution—from one-man-band videos to clips resembling Saturday Night Live shorts—suggests that even upstart online providers are ditching the lecture-hall style.

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: ]



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