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Northwestern Offers Alumni, Friends, Colleagues a Unique, Free MOOC

Popular, improved content strategy course returns online this summer, starts June 9

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University is offering a special massive open online course (or, MOOC) on Content Strategy for Professionals exclusively to Northwestern alumni and friends this summer, starting on June 9.

The first content strategy MOOC at Northwestern was given this winter and drew interest from 21,728 professionals in 141 countries who took some or all of it. The new iteration has been uniquely designed and is offered for free to Northwestern alumni and their colleagues, clients, friends or family--in short, anyone the alums wish to invite to take it.

“In this complex information age, forward-thinking people know that if they and their for-profit or non-profit organizations are to thrive, they must master the most demanding communications frontier--creating engaging, strategic, honest stories and information that are valued by their most important audiences,” said John Lavine, the lead professor on the MOOC and the director of Northwestern’s Media Management Center. “If they do this, it will make their enterprise stand out.”

“This MOOC will give you actionable ways to create content that others will value,” Lavine continued. “From social media to audience insights, you will understand the best ways to think about digital and print content in your organization. You’ll see best-practice examples from across the globe and gain unique insight by going inside the future of content strategy in the leading organizations today that are pioneering that frontier.”

This MOOC is for professional alumni and their friends across the globe who wish to significantly improve their abilities to understand audiences and develop strategic words, pictures, graphics and videos to convey their organization’s most important goals.

Interested Northwestern alumni can go to the following link to register for the course: Alumni who don’t already have an account with Coursera will be prompted to create one by putting in their name and email address. Enrollment happens automatically when a registrant reaches the voucher landing page. 

The MOOC is called Content Strategy for Professionals: Engaging Audiences for Your Organization. It is taught by 10 professors, eight from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and two with joint appointments at Medill and the Kellogg School of Management.

The MOOC is designed for professionals in a variety of different kinds of organizations, public and private. It will show them how they can use credible, trustworthy and transparent content to far better engage their internal and external audiences.

For more information, see:

To see a video summary of the alumni course go to:

Provost Dan Linzer said this content strategy MOOC and others like it will give alumni an opportunity to interact more with each other and with the university--leading many to recognize that “being part of Northwestern as a student is a lifelong experience.” To see a message from Linzer on his goals for the MOOC, go to:

Lavine underscored that this MOOC for alumni has been improved even beyond the first one that was offered widely around the world this winter, which generated 5,750 conversations online--that is, discussion board threads--that were deepened by another 17,686 participant comments.

“We took all that we learned in the first one and all that was possible to do in addition and refined the initial course,” he said in an interview. “Even more important, we have tailored this MOOC for all Northwestern alumni, no matter what school they were a part of and when they left the University.”

Also included in the alumni MOOC are new weekly best practice examples from Northwestern schools. As an example, here is a mission statement from the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science that captures the complexity, dynamism and excitement of whole-brain engineering, thinking and learning:

“Those who sign up for the MOOC--which begins June 9 and runs through July 20--will learn how to communicate clearly and effectively,” said Candy Lee, a professor in journalism and integrated marketing communications at Medill.

“We’re offering this free MOOC for you because you are a Northwestern alum and thoughtful about how you communicate,” Lee said. “Just think about your myriad clients, customers, friends and colleagues who would appreciate knowing how to have far more impact with the information they want to get across.”

More reasons for alumni to take the course:

  • You can take the MOOC at your own pace: all on a weekend or some each week for six weeks. 
  • There are no tests or grades--just great knowledge that will deepen your understanding of how to make all forms of print and digital content more impactful.
  • The experts in the course are 10 Northwestern faculty from Medill and Kellogg.
  • It was developed on Coursera, the largest MOOC platform in the world.
  • The course is free but you have to register to take it. Click here: (

Northwestern’s first MOOC offerings debuted in the fall and drew interest from more than 68,000 students around the world. To do these new online courses, Northwestern partnered with Coursera ( last year to provide its MOOCs on Coursera’s digital platform to anyone, anywhere, for free.

Coursera’s mission is to educate millions of people by offering a digital learning experience and classes and professors from top universities online.

The first MOOC launched at Northwestern last September was Understanding Media by Understanding Google, taught by Medill professor Owen R. Youngman. The course will also be offered again beginning on May 26. To sign up go to the Coursera website The popular class, updated with new background readings from throughout 2014, will teach students about the company that touches not only every media enterprise, but also nearly every person who lives life online. See more at:

The Coursera model offers non-credit courses through a platform that allows open enrollment with no admissions requirements and no tuition costs. Because of the asynchronous course delivery, alumni participants and their guests can complete the work at times convenient for them. Elements of the procedures Northwestern faculty learn by helping develop MOOCs are being adapted over time to on-campus teaching at the University. 

When alumni enroll in this content strategy MOOC, the course planners said, “You will join a 21st century social learning and global community tailored for adults. In addition, you can invite your clients, colleagues, family and friends to join.”

“Content strategy is a conversation that provides thought-leadership,” Lavine explained. “Regardless of their level, area of work or expertise, professionals who use content strategy have new knowledge that enables them to be far more effective with words, graphics, video, social and mobile media. They learn how to give their most important stakeholders trustable, transparent, actionable information that those individuals will value and use.”

Remember, the MOOC is free and includes more than 60 short videos in six modules over six weeks, along with learning questions and assignments. It is a rigorous program, and there is a case study that weaves throughout the MOOC, allowing the participants to build their content strategy skills and receive feedback on them.

In addition, the MOOC features videos and multimedia best practice examples from companies and organizations around the world. The MOOC also has an electronic toolkit for the participants to use in the future to help them and their colleagues as they encounter new challenges in their organization.

“The world is getting ever more complicated,” Lavine observed. “The most important thing--beyond your health and love--is the number 1,440, which is the number of minutes in a 24-hour day. There is very little time, so you have to give people something they value, that makes them smarter, if your content is to be worth their time.” 

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