Michigan State offering free online course in conjunction with 2014 Winter Olympics

Lauren Williams's picture
Thursday, January 30, 2014

Billions of people tune into the Olympics to watch the greatest athletes from around the world compete in many different sports. But beyond the spectacle of the Olympic Games themselves, mega events like the Olympics have a far greater cultural, societal and economic impact lasting well beyond the short-term event itself.

Dr. Mark Wilson, a professor of Urban and Regional Planning in the Michigan State University School of Planning, Design and Construction (SPDC) and the director of SPDC Global, Dr. Eva Kassens-Noor, assistant professor of Urban and Regional Planning and Global Urban Studies, and Lisa Robinson, head of metadata management for MSU Libraries, will explore those deeper impacts during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi with a free five-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled, Mega Events: Inside the Winter Olympics.

“Our hope is that this course gives participants a functional understanding of the Olympics, how they’re organized and how host cities and countries manage them,” Wilson said. “The MOOC format and timing of the course will let us tailor modules to events in the Sochi Olympics and incorporate those into class discussions as they happen.”

Wilson, Kassens-Noor and Robinson drew from their collective experience with “mega” events, including the Olympics, the World’s Fair and the World Cup, when designing the course. “Mega” events typically have some key characteristics -- they are short, large scale events with millions of spectators, they are expensive (the Sochi Olympics, for example, will cost approximately $51 billion) and they draw an expansive audience and media presence.

"I have no doubt that Sochi will stage fantastic Winter Olympics for spectators around the world. For the visitors, the highly clustered setup (mountain and coast) will provide convenient access and spectacular views,” said Kassens-Noor, author of the book, Planning Olympic Legacies: Transport Dreams and Urban Realities. “The real challenge for Sochi will be a sustainable legacy ensuring economic efficiency, environmental stewardship and social equity."

The Winter Olympics MOOC will be the first in a series of Mega Events MOOCs offered by Michigan State. Wilson, Kassens-Noor and Robinson plan to do courses centered on the World Cup in June 2014, Expo2015 in the Summer of 2015 and the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro in 2016.

“Mega events are increasingly popular across the world,” Wilson said. “There are currently more than 150 cities bidding to host different events. The draw for host cities is that the events are prestigious and draw the attention of spectators, viewers and media to one place on the planet at the same time, engaging a worldwide audience.”

The first course will feature five modules focused on different aspects of the Winter Olympics: the background and organization of the Winter Olympic Games; symbols of the Olympics and countries during the Opening Ceremonies; the planning, layout and organization of the Sochi Winter Olympics; events and issues associated with the Olympics; and a look at what happens when the Olympics end -- what happens to the sites and facilities when people leave town after the Games? The instructors will also use twitter (connect to MEPupdates) and facebook (Mega Event Planning Group) to connect with participants for an individual experience.

“Our goal with the five modules is to show how the impact of the Winter Olympics can be seen and interpreted in many different ways,” Wilson said. This course will become a trademark of Michigan State University, as the next MOOC tentatively titled ““Mega Events: Inside the FIFA World Cup” is already in the making.

To register for the course, visit: https://www.canvas.net/courses/mega-events-inside-the-winter-olympics

The course will be Michigan State’s fifth pilot MOOC. It was developed in partnership with MSUglobal Knowledge and Learning Innovations, innovation and strategy hub that assists faculty in creating, facilitating and implementing impactful projects that lead to new research and funding opportunities and enhance the reputation of the university community. Visit MSUglobal’s MOOCs at MSU page for more on Michigan State’s pilot MOOCs.