The impact of a MOOC

From left: Laura James, Professor Bruce Scates and Rebecca Wheatley.

From left: Laura James, Professor Bruce Scates and Rebecca Wheatley.

Monash has begun the second run of its popular ANZAC history course with massive open online course (MOOC) platform, FutureLearn.

“World War 1: A History in 100 Stories” had a successful debut in April as one of the centrepieces of the University’s commemoration of the Centenary of Anzac Day. 

100 Stories was the most popular of five other World War 1 courses offered by FutureLearn, with more than 8,000 registrations and 3,000 active participants – a testimony to the three course presenters, Professor Bruce Scates and PhD students Rebecca Wheatley and Laura James. 

The course was promoted to all high schools in Victoria, and was well-received by teachers.

“I love teaching students about the events of WWI and WWII. My great uncle was an ANZAC soldier for New Zealand . . . and my grandfather was in the New Zealand air force in WWII.  By completing this course I am hoping to learn even more about WWI and learn new ways to engage my students in such an important part of our history.” – History teacher from a secondary school north of Melbourne.

Most students had family connections to the Great War, and for many, this was their first experience of online learning.  The impact of the course was strong.

“Thank you for making the last five weeks one of the most fascinating and humbling learning experiences since my college days. I feel privileged to have taken part with the rest of our learners. You most certainly have taken me in a direction I wouldn't have thought possible. My great uncle, John Allardice has come back to life. Until very recently, he was all but a missing person within our family. He emigrated to Australia early in the century, never to be heard from again. To my surprise, he has reappeared as an Anzac.  Thanks to the AWM (Australian War Museum) his war records were right at my fingertips . . . Thanks to you all, the history of my family 100 years ago has taken on new meaning and a poignancy I never expected.” – Participating 100 Stories student.

Professor Scates said the experience has affected his approach to teaching and learning.

“Developing the 100 Stories online course has influenced how I now think about teaching and learning in my on-campus units,” Professor Scates said.

“You could say it’s about teaching teachers to learn again.”

The online course illustrated how it is possible to present material to students in engaging, often visually dynamic ways, but without compromising quality or detracting from the scholarly debate that is essential to the study of history. 

Developing the course was a very collaborative process, and Professor Scates recognises the opportunities it gave him to work with colleagues from across the Faculty of Arts and international universities.

“It has created a sense of fellowship amongst our teaching community, profiling our talented young Early Career Researchers and strengthening research collaborations,” Professor Scates said.

 The course has also resulted in close relationships with key cultural institutions such as Museum Victoria, the State Library and the National Archives.  

With its focus on giving a voice to those marginalised in mainstream histories of the Great War, including women and Indigenous Anzacs, the 100 Stories course is a powerful means for Monash to reach out to the global community.

“It furthers the University’s quest for wider cultural literacy and community outreach,” Professor Scates said.

This re-run of the course has been scheduled to coincide with Remembrance Day on 11 November, which is also when the book of the 100 Stories will be officially launched at Melbourne Museum.

Register for the "World War 1: A History in 100 Stories" course at the FutureLearn website.

If you would like to attend the launch of the 100 Stories book, please contact 100 Stories Project Manager Alice Connell at alice.mcconnell@monash.edu.