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Take Me Out to the MOOC Game

With online baseball class, BU enters a new era


Baseball’s opening day is behind us, but if you can’t get enough of this spring ritual, you can savor another opening day of sorts May 29, when a baseball-centered class debuts as BU’s first MOOC.

Sabermetrics 101: Introduction to Baseball Analytics kicks off what ultimately will be five MOOCs (massive open online courses) BU will offer via edX, the online platform spearheaded by Harvard and MIT. MOOCs allow students around the world to take university classes free, for no credit.

For sabermetrician Andy Andres, the MOOC is a chance to put online a course he taught for a decade in a traditional classroom setting at Tufts before coming to BU in 2000. It will be the first time he’s rolled out the course here in any form, and the prospect that a student with a laptop in Bora Bora could access it thrills him.

“In the previous years that I have taught this course, there were many students who were not on campus and wanted to take it,” says Andres, a College of General Studies senior lecturer in natural sciences and mathematics. “The wonderful edX platform allows those students to take the class and learn something they want to learn.”

Since MOOCs enable students to take the course at their own pace and at times convenient for them, Andres says, he can “focus so much more on content and student learning” rather than meeting a schedule.

Sabermetrics, the statistical analysis of baseball, will introduce students to the rudiments of the field. (Andres is also a Major League Baseball datacaster, tracking and notating every play, from hits to foul balls, for Red Sox home games). The discipline, he told an interviewer, has become indispensable to franchises. “Knowledge is always being gained throughout the sport with actual management of rosters, how you play and shift, and which players have value.”

“People can register whenever” for his MOOC, and course materials will be viewable “through the summer and likely beyond,” Andres says. But students seeking a completion certificate should sign up by the end of May, he suggests. Register for Sabermetrics and BU’s other MOOCs here.

Developed by BU’s Digital Learning Initiative, MOOCs are among several uses of online technology the University is exploring to improve its educational offerings.

Three other MOOCs are in development and will debut this fall: War for the Greater Middle East, The Art of Poetry, and Alien Worlds: The Science of Exoplanet Discovery and Characterization.

The fifth MOOC will be chosen from proposals to be submitted this spring.

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Rich Barlow

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

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