My first big mistake: MOOC planning – Part 5

A real-time chronicle of a seasoned professor embarking on his first massively open online course.

Wow! With three weeks to go to the course launch, I checked the course registrations for the first time. So far, almost 35,000 students have signed up. In theory, I knew this would happen; that’s been everyone else’s experience with MOOCs. But when you actually see that kind of figure on the stats page for your own course, it makes a big impression.

Then I made my first big mistake. I sent out a welcome email to the students who had already registered. That part was not the mistake. Of course I’d want to welcome the students! Nor was my error to mention this blog in my email. It does, after all, provide students with some background on my thinking behind the course and what I want to achieve. My mistake was not closing comments on this blog before I sent out the email.

I was online when the first few comments started coming in, and as usual I responded to them. Then the flood began. I managed to close comments before the WordPress servers shut me down.  :-)

So, sorry to all those who wrote in to this blog and did not get a reply. The Coursera platform, which is desgned to handle classes of many thousands of students, offers opportunities to comment and exchange ideas, with a mechanism to bring to the attention of me and my teaching assistants any discussion thread that is generating a lot of interest. That will be available once the course starts.

I wonder what my next mistake will be.

To be continued …

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2 Responses to “My first big mistake: MOOC planning – Part 5”


  1. 1 Keith Devlin August 30, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    I’ve re-opened comments. Hopefully, the initial deluge of comments that followed my sending out a welcome email to over 30,000 registered students won’t repeat. My intention in setting up this blog was to provide a means to communicate with others interested in MOOCs, particularly those giving and taking MOOCs (including students in my own MOOC – though they will have access to the discussion forums within the course website). And by definition, “communicate with” is bi-directional! So I want to allow comments, and encourage them. But please don’t use the comment facility on this blog to ask specific questions about my upcoming MOOC. If you have a question, chances are 1,000 or so other students have the same one, and neither the system nor I can handle that kind of traffic. The Coursera site is, however, set up to handle many thousands of users, and they have mechanisms to filter and channel large volumes of messages. Sorry about that initial hiccup.


  1. 1 Theorize First, Engage Later | The IsharaComix GradBlog Trackback on August 31, 2012 at 11:29 pm
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I'm Dr. Keith Devlin, a mathematician at Stanford University. I gave my first free, open, online math course in fall 2012, and have been offering it twice a year since then. This blog chronicles my experiences as they happen.

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