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Baseball MOOC Pulls in 17,000 Learners

BU enters a new online arena in education

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It might not have matched the Red Sox for opening day attendance, but BU’s debut MOOC, on baseball analytics, drew fans in the five figures to the cyber-bleachers.

Just shy of 17,000 students enrolled for Sabermetrics 101, which launched last week under Andy Andres, a College of General Studies senior lecturer in natural sciences and math. The first of five MOOCs (massive open online courses) BU will offer through the online learning consortium edX, Sabermetrics premiered to a laudatory article at Yahoo! Sports.

The enrollments “turned a clever idea into a rousing success,” the website said, adding that the world “got better, much better,” because Andres assembled a curriculum “that explains the importance of baseball analytics and their history and even offers a tool through which students themselves can code projects.”

MOOCs allow students worldwide to take classes, for free and for no academic credit, at their own convenience and pace. The enrollment stats for Andres’ class show that after the United States, the countries with the largest cohort of students taking the course are Canada, India, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Enrollment jumped by 3,000, in part from the Yahoo! Sports coverage, says Andres, who pronounced himself very gratified by the interest. Enrollment is rolling, so interested people can sign up for the class at any time, but to receive a certificate of completion, you must enroll and complete all the course work by July 21. After that date, the course materials will still be viewable, but the discussion forum will close and no certificates will be awarded. Registration for BU’s MOOCs, including Sabermetrics, can be done here.

“The popularity is really because the course is offering a chance for students around the world to learn something they want to know more about, namely data science, analytics, sabermetrics, and baseball,” Andres says. “We offer a way to better understand what all the buzz is about in these emerging fields of study.” Andres is also a Major League Baseball datacaster, recording every home game play for the Boston Red Sox.

In student registrations, Sabermetrics has outpaced three other announced BU MOOCs, which are scheduled for fall launch. At the start of this week, The Art of Poetry, being taught by three-time US poet laureate Robert Pinsky, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of English and creative writing, had roughly 7,000 registrants; War for the Greater Middle East, by Andrew Bacevich, a CAS professor of international relations and history, 4,000; and Alien Worlds: The Science of Exoplanet Discovery and Characterization, by Andrew West, a CAS assistant professor of astronomy, 2,000.

The fifth MOOC will be chosen from proposals submitted by faculty sometime this spring.

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Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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