Invitation to Stanford’s Course on the US Presidential Elections

Here's a project that a few colleagues and I have had some fun developing. So it only seems fair that I get the scoop, right?

Starting on October 15, you can follow a timely, free course presented by Stanford University. Led by Martin Lewis, the course will explore the geography of U.S. presidential elections (both past and present), and challenge the suggestion that we are simply divided into a “Red America” and “Blue America.” It’s really much more complicated than that, as the introductory video below makes pretty clear. (Get the iTunes version here.)

The course will run five weeks, and it will include a debrief after the November election. A new video (running between 90 and 120 minutes) will be posted every Wednesday on iTunes and YouTube. And we've set up a web site for the course where you'll be able to interact with the professor, and where you can also find a lot more information, including a complete course description and readings for the course. Once the course gets started, I will post a reminder. In the meantime, I wanted to give you an advanced heads up and hopefully whet your appetites a bit.

Lastly, I should mention that this course comes out of Stanford's fine Continuing Studies program, and it will be eventually listed in our collection of Free Courses.

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  • dkmnow says:

    How hard would it be to make available a low-res audio stream so that dialup users are not, in effect, locked out of the classroom? The bit-rate of the stream should be NO MORE than 33kbps. 24kbps would be much better, and is more than adequate for spoken word media.

    I don’t mean for this comment to sound like an accusation, but it’s extraordinarily frustrating that so little (important) media is produced with any consideration for dialup users. There are countless millions the world over, and yes, even here in the gold-plated US of A, who do not have the luxury of accessing a broadband connection. And yet, those who rely on dialup connections due to economic disadvantage are every bit as much in need of access to good information — even more so, I would argue.

    There are a handful of media outlets — democracynow.org and antiwar.com are two excellent examples — that remain keenly aware of the importance of providing dialup-friendly options. But among most providers who are themselves economically privileged, at least in relative terms, it seems that such sensitivity to the importance of accessibility is plunging headlong into extinction. Especially considering the lofty rhetoric in praise of OER (open educational resources) and its importance for the future of humanity, this kind of de facto technological discrimination and marginalization of huge segments of the population … well, frankly, it comes off as downright bizarre.

    Does that make any sense?

  • Dan Colman says:

    Hi there,

    Thanks for your note, and certainly I appreciate your concerns, which are very valid.

    In general, when it comes to the Stanford courses that I have worked on, we try to do the courses in audio for the reason that you outlined above. In this case, however, we needed to use video because the course relies heavily on showing/analyzing maps, and we felt that too much would be missed in an audio version. While I realize that downloading video over iTunes isn’t feasible with a dial up connection, the YouTube version should work. You might need to be a little patient, but you’ll at least get the benefit of seeing the maps, which is core to the course. I hope this works you.

    Dan

  • dkmnow says:

    Thanks for your reply. It’s good to know this is being taken into consideration.

    On the matter of YouTube, I’m afraid it will rarely, if ever, be a viable option for dialup users for this sort of material. From my experience, 3 to 4 minutes of load time per megabyte is about the best speed we can expect to get, if that. Thus, factoring in traffic and other variations, the average YouTube vid of, say, eight minutes in length can take up to an hour, or even considerably more, to load.

    So, for a 90 minute vid, we’re looking at, what, 8 hours of loading? Ten hours? More? Even setting aside the random disconnections by ISPs that still routinely plague dialup users, and the accompanying problems that are only partially resolved by the use of download management apps, that kind of load time just isn’t practical.

    Be that as it may, I do well understand that some courses and materials are simply of a nature that can’t be well adapted to a non-video format.

    Thanks again for your reply, and for your hard work on this important project.

    –DKM

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