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‘Davidson Now’ Offers Teaching, Discourse on Timely Topics, Free and Online

Ari Berman
Ari Berman, author and writer at The Nation magazine, is among the journalists, faculty experts, advocates and election officials contributing to the course.

As the U.S. general election approaches, voters are left to make sense of rhetoric around issues fundamental to our democracy–among them, voter access and fraud. Through the new online learning initiative Davidson Now, the college will offer a series of free, two-week courses that delve into these and other timely topics.

The first course, titled "U.S. Voting: Access and Fraud," will launch Oct. 31 and run through Nov. 11. Led by political science professors Susan Roberts and Andrew O'Geen, the course will feature guest contributors, including political journalists, election officials and advocates from a wide range of voting rights organizations. Participants will be invited to report on their experiences at the polls, both in early voting and on Election Day, Nov. 8.

"The integrity of the voting process has been a recurring topic of the 2016 U.S. presidential election," said Roberts. "Davidson Now will give users an overview of voting rights and present a deep examination of the challenges to access and the threat of fraud."

A New Model

Davidson Now, an online learning series to share with the world the college's expert resources and promote interaction about timely topics in an online learning environment, is the latest iteration of the more than three-year partnership between the college and edX, a non-profit enterprise founded by Harvard and MIT to produce a series of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Davidson Now will produce a series of "pop-up MOOCs," or two-week, interactive online courses that are specific to topics in current events that are complex and often controversial, and critical to society. Traditional MOOCs can take upward of a year to create, but with this new model, Davidson can produce a MOOC in just three weeks.

The courses are free, and online registration opens today. Additional courses will be announced on a rolling basis.

"As critical events and issues unfold, we know there are rich conversations about those things happening in Davidson classrooms and in college classrooms all over the world. But unless you are a college student, it's difficult to access that kind of thoughtful discourse. Davidson Now is designed to bring that kind of real-time teaching and discussion to a virtual community–where we can all benefit," said Julie Goff, ITS director of engagement and Davidson Now project lead. "We examine the historical context and aim to develop a baseline fluency in an issue before we offer opinions."

EdX's open source educational platform encompasses a network of the world's top universities. The initiative's goal is to improve education both online and on campus while conducting research on how students learn. So called pop-up MOOCs will expand this work while bringing individuals into the process who may have been reticent to commit to a lengthier online course.

"This pop-up MOOC will be the first of its kind on edX. It is very exciting," Goff said.

"We believe that our collaboration with edX has extended Davidson's reach and impact for good around the world," said Davidson President Carol Quillen. "The Davidson Now initiative will expand opportunities for our talented faculty to engage meaningfully with the public on some of today's most important issues."

In 2013, Davidson was one of the first leading liberal arts colleges to collaborate with edX on the XConsortium platform. To date, more than five million individuals have participated in courses through the edX platform. The edX courses are designed to take advantage of the features and benefits of online learning, including self-paced learning, online discussion groups, wiki-based collaborative learning, instant assessment and game-like experiences. All courses use an open-source software that allows experts, educational institutions and even companies and organizations to mount and customize courses.

More on the New Course

Associate Professor of Political Science Susan Roberts and MacArthur Assistant Professor of Political Science Andrew O'Geen will lead "U.S. Voting: Access and Fraud."

Roberts teaches courses on the presidency, Congress, political parties, campaigns and interest groups at Davidson College. She frequently provides commentary and analysis on local and national contests to local, national and international media.

O'Geen's research and teaching focus on American politics, political institutions and the judiciary. His current work examines the U.S. Supreme Court, specifically the cooperative behavior of justices, the judicial review of federal laws and the dynamics of the court's issue agenda.

Course participants also include: Jim Morrill, political writer, Charlotte Observer; Michael Dickerson, director, Mecklenburg Country Board of Elections; Jen Jones, Democracy NC; Jay DeLancy, The Voter Integrity Project; and Ari Berman, journalist and author, The Nation.

Berman is a senior contributing writer for The Nation magazine and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His new book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, was published in August 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights, and the intersection of money and politics. His stories have also appeared in The New York TimesRolling Stone and The Guardian, and he is a frequent guest and commentator on MSNBC and NPR. His first book, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, was published in 2010.

For more information, refer to Davidson Now's frequently asked questions.