GSPM to launch first-ever massive open online course in Spanish

GW’s online presence is now bilingual.

Next month, the University will launch its first massive open online course taught in a foreign language. Experts say the MOOC will help GW reach a more global audience, which could strengthen the University’s international reputation.

The curriculum is identical to a MOOC launched in April by the Director of the Graduate School of Political Management Mark Kennedy, which discusses seven ways for businesses to engage with companies and organizations that can impact business activity.

Kennedy said in an April interview that the goal of the English version of the MOOC is to increase enrollment at GSPM. He added through a University spokeswoman last week that the course will act as a “vehicle to attract students to its other Spanish language programs.”

Kennedy said the Spanish MOOC will extend GSPM’s ties to Spanish-speaking countries. GSPM also offers a master’s degree in political communications in governance, which began in 2012, he said.

“Launching a MOOC in Spanish leverages the great strengths that GW’s Graduate School of Political Management has in Spain and Spanish-speaking Latin America,” he said.

Kennedy declined to say how many students signed up for the course because the school hasn’t begun marketing the class. Depending on the success of the course, Kennedy said the school will consider adding more online courses taught in foreign languages.

According to a report published in January by the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, located in Barcelona, Spain offers the fifth-most MOOCs worldwide, behind countries like the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Fiona Hollands, an associate director and senior researcher in the Teachers College, Columbia University, said the course could help Spanish speakers in the U.S. “who are over here, perhaps establishing businesses, or working a business, and find their way better in the world of business.”

Hollands said GW would seem “Western-centric” to offer only MOOCs in English because the courses are available to students internationally. She added that Spanish has proven to be a particularly popular language for many MOOCs because there is strong interest in Latin America to take the courses.

In addition to Spanish, Hollands said that Chinese is among the most popular languages of MOOCs not offered in English, adding that Arabic is also rising in popularity.

“There are some Arab-language ones popping up just because the Queen Rania Foundation funded a MOOC portal called Edraak,” she said. “The idea is for somebody to translate some of the MOOCs into Arabic, or to fund the creation of MOOCs in Arabic.”

Officials have recently prioritized the University’s international presence through partnerships and programs in South Korea and China.

Andrew Bacevich, an international relations and history professor at Boston University who designed the curriculum for a MOOC, said GW’s movement toward online learning in foreign languages follows a national trend to offer classes in multiple languages.

“It’s not surprising that Americans are pursuing this issue aggressively because we are one of the leaders worldwide in higher education,” he said. “But I would fully expect that higher education in Japan and in China, and in you-fill-in-the-blanks, will also try to exploit whatever potential there is.”

The University has revealed other MOOCs over the past year, including ones to accompany a field course in Kenya and another focused on the inner workings of the Federal Reserve.

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