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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Comments (3)
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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 — and 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.


  • 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.


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