Visualizing Japan X (VJx): an MITx and HarvardX collaborative MOOC

Developed 2014, updated for a new course run, Fall 2016

EdX Course Link

In 2014, Visualizing Cultures' content and image-driven approach was made into a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in a first-time collaboration between MITx and HarvardX: "Visualizing Japan (1850s-1930s): Westernization, Protest, Modernity” or VJx. view

Miyagawa abandoned his lecture and pressed on with more questions. He was pleasantly surprised that most of the students were not only able to answer the questions, but also willing to engage him and the other students in discussion. “When I finished the class without showing even a single slide from my PowerPoint, I could only ask, what happened?” he remarks. In the classroom, the MOOC material became a new form of textbook....“I don’t think I can ever go back to a pure lecture-style teaching,” says Miyagawa.
— "A MOOC sees its greatest impact in the classroom at MIT,” Office of Digital Learning, MIT, November 14, 2014

The course ran Sept. 3-Oct. 22 with discussions, polls and word clouds. An archived version of VJx can be taken at any time. Detailed scripting by professors John W. Dower (MIT) and Andrew Gordon (Harvard), with lead content developer Ellen Sebring (MIT) gave an image-driven structure to the online lectures and the courseware.

Sebring lead a team of MIT undergraduates to design and program visual assessments since the relatively new EdX platform had no pre-existing code for inserting images. The course had three-times the usual completion rate with lectures and visual assessments receiving the highest ratings from students. The MOOC also changed how Professor Miyagawa taught his MIT residential course in Japanese culture as a "flipped" classroom. [view article]

MOOC Team:

John W. Dower (Professor, MIT)
Andrew Gordon (Professor, Harvard)
Shigeru Miyagawa (Professor, MIT)
Gennifer Weisenfeld (Professor, Duke)
Ellen Sebring (Lead Content Developer)
Jascha Smilack (Lead Developer, HarvardX)
Michael Thornton (Courseware, PhD student in history, Harvard)

Japan historians John W. Dower, Andrew Gordon, and art historian Gennifer Weisenfeld, record a lecture for VJx at Hauser Studio, Harvard University, May 19, 2014 and June 19, 2014. (photos: Ellen Sebring):