Getting More Voices to
be Heard

Matt’s Story

Close to a million people are getting the tools to speak more effectively, thanks to Principal Lecturer Matt McGarrity’s free Introduction to Public Speaking MOOC.

I’ve had close to a million people go through the course on various platforms.

Matt McGarrity, Principal Lecturer, UW Department of Communications

When it comes to making education accessible to nontraditional learners both near and far, the Educational Outreach unit — now Continuum College — at the University of Washington has always blazed the trail. Beginning in 1912, the unit launched correspondence courses for the UW. And eventually in 2012, they became one of the first public university partners to offer a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, with Coursera.

Now, Continuum College works with a range of UW faculty to build and administer MOOCs, offering instructional design, project management and video and audio production resources. The courses are published on the Coursera or edX platforms.

The MOOC that got Everyone Talking

“Without Continuum College, I would not have been able to have my first MOOC. And I wouldn’t be working on all the MOOCs I’m working on now. It’s been a very productive relationship,” said Matt McGarrity, Principal Lecturer in the UW Department of Communications. McGarrity’s Introduction to Public Speaking ranks in the top 50 most popular free MOOCs of all time, according to enrollment analysis by Online Course Report.

“At this point, I've had close to a million people go through the course,” McGarrity said of his public speaking MOOC. “They're coming from everywhere, hundreds of countries.” Many students have been from the United States, but the majority are from all over the globe, including a high representation from India, China, Brazil and Spain.

According to McGarrity, the majority of the students have undergraduate or advanced degrees. They’re taking his course for professional development or for their own public outreach in their area of expertise, such as the sciences.

Now my thinking is about what works in a global sense.

Matt McGarrity, Principal Lecturer, UW Department of Communications

Reaching a Global Audience

By all counts, McGarrity’s three-year-old MOOC is a smashing success. Enrollment numbers remain high, user ratings are excellent and students express gratitude and enthusiasm for the course in reviews. But the students aren’t the only ones benefiting. Teaching the MOOC has made a difference in McGarrity’s life as well.

“From a scholarship standpoint, having to think so much about a global audience has changed the direction of my study of public speaking,” McGarrity explained. “Before doing the MOOC, I would look at public speaking within the American tradition and maybe within the British tradition. Now my thinking is about what works in a global sense.”

The MOOC’s popularity has also led to more opportunities for McGarrity to do in-person educational outreach, something he was already participating in. “I consider it an important role of a public university to be able to spread and disseminate knowledge,” he said, “and the MOOC seemed to match up not only with the public outreach I was doing around the state but also what I thought the university would be interested in.”