More than 68,000 students from all over the world have signed up to take Northwestern University’s first three massive open online courses this fall.

A promo video for the engineering class.

The three MOOCs will examine Google and the media, engineering’s unified systems and the legal aspects of entrepreneurship.

Such classes are proliferating in the academic world, and Northwestern partnered with Coursera earlier this year to provide its own MOOCs on Coursera’s digital platform to anyone, anywhere, for free.

The University will launch its first pair of MOOCs this month and a third course in October, joining some 82 international and U.S. institutions now working with the company, with more than four million registered users in about 400 courses.

On Sept. 16, Medill Professor Owen R. Youngman will launch the first MOOC: “Understanding Media by Understanding Google,” which will teach students about the company that touches not only every media enterprise, but also nearly every person who lives life online.

Increasingly, Internet users must understand what the company has wrought not only to control their offline and online environments, but also to interact and engage successfully with anyone in their professional and personal lives.

Youngman is the Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. (Some 41,000 students, and counting, have signed up so far.)

On Sept. 23, McCormick Professor Todd D. Murphey will launch the second MOOC: “Everything is the Same: Modeling Engineered Systems,” which is an introduction to engineering course that will help students learn modeling and analysis techniques for electrical, mechanical and chemical systems and discover how engineered systems that seem very different are actually very similar.

This “systems” view has been responsible for much of the progress in the last several decades in aeronautics, robotics and other engineering disciplines where many different technologies work together. Murphey is an associate professor of mechanical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and of physical therapy and human movement sciences in the Feinberg School of Medicine. (More than 13,300 students have signed up so far.)

On Oct. 23, Northwestern Law School Clinical Professors Esther Barron and Steve Reed will launch the third MOOC: “Law and the Entrepreneur,”  which will highlight the critical legal and business issues entrepreneurs face as they build and launch a new venture.

The course will explore real world scenarios and address the legal and business issues that entrepreneurs face, from the moment they conceive of the “million dollar idea” to all of the important junctures along the path to success.

Barron is a clinical professor of law and the director of the Entrepreneurship Law Center in the Bluhm Legal Clinic at the Law School. Reed is a Clinical Professor of Law, the assistant director of the Entrepreneurship Law Center and co-director of the J.D.-MBA Program at the Law School. (More than 13,700 students have signed up so far)

The Coursera model offers non-credit courses through a platform that allows open enrollment with no admissions requirements, no tuition costs and an asynchronous course delivery, so students can complete the coursework at times convenient for them.

Elements of the procedures Northwestern faculty learn by helping develop MOOCs may be adapted over time to on-campus teaching at the University, as well.

“This allows us to evaluate learning outcomes from new modes of education, to expand the visibility and impact of Northwestern and its faculty and to showcase what is special about our research and curriculum,” Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer explained. “Ultimately, we hope this endeavor will help shape the evolution of higher education.”

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