University offers government class in SMOC format


Shweta Gulati

Professors Eric Daniel (above) and Daron Shaw are offering a Government 310L course in an online news broadcast format. 

Nicole Stiles

Registration for an online-only Government 310L class, which will be delivered to students in a news broadcast format, will close Wednesday.

The class, taught by government professors Eric McDaniel and Daron Shaw, is another experiment in synchronous massive online courses — better known as SMOCs — which differ from the format of traditional online classes. UT offered Psychology 301 in a SMOC format last semester with professors Samuel Gosling and James Pennebaker.

Students must check in for the online lecture at a certain time, and McDaniel said the lectures are posted within 36 hours for students to access.

According to Emily Cicchini, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services project manager, the course’s online setting brings the professor right to the student’s computer screen. 

McDaniel estimates 1,050 students, both from UT and the general public, have enrolled for this semester’s course.

“Anyone in the nation can enroll,” Cicchini said.

McDaniel said the new class format increases efficiency because it allows professors to cover more material in less time.

“Administrative costs are way down,” McDaniel said. “[Video streaming] is a way to easily integrate media and learning.”

Although the concept of online courses is not new, the recently lowered prices of video streaming have allowed UT to take part in this modern form of teaching, according to Cicchini. The interactive, online format of the course is part of a recent trend of bringing new technology to the University, including the introduction of Canvas.

“UT has been experimenting with a lot of different technology,” Cicchini said. “Canvas is part of the big picture.”

McDaniel said the use of online lectures encourages students to participate, since it only requires turning on their computers.

Linguistics junior Emily Hunker said she thinks the class could provide educational opportunities to people outside the University.

“Anything to make education more accessible to more people is beneficial,” Hunker said.

Shaya Mehdibeigi, international relations and global studies junior, said although she thinks the system would create a more convenient learning experience, it’s not conducive to certain learning styles.

“I personally prefer the traditional way of physically attending class and taking notes,” Mehdibeigi said. “Knowing myself, watching an online lecture might lead to boredom. I would get very easily distracted and end up not paying attention.”

McDaniel said students who are self-motivated are likely to do well in the course because the online format places more responsibility on the student.

“[The student will] still have to show up on time and keep track of times and due dates,” McDaniel said.