Explore caucuses through free Iowa State University online course

MOOC designed to address any questions about state's caucus processes

A precinct map at the Democratic Party Caucus at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids in January 2012. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
A precinct map at the Democratic Party Caucus at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids in January 2012. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Despite what seems to be 24/7 coverage, Iowa’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses remain a mystery to many people — including Iowans, according to Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State University political science professor who fields caucus questions from media outlets around the globe.

So beginning Tuesday, Schmidt will be offering answers to anyone curious about the caucuses that kick off the presidential nomination process for both Democrats and Republicans. It’s all part of ISU’s first MOOC — massive open online course — that runs through Feb. 2 at www.iowacaucusesmooc.org/.

Schmidt will present the history of the Iowa caucuses, which began to play a significant role in the nomination process in the 1970s. He’ll discuss famous events that propelled Iowa to the forefront and share caucus anecdotes.

“It’s a four-week, self-paced course where participants can chose any topic of their choice and explore it,” said Ritushree Chatterjee, instructional development specialist, who works with Schmidt. “There are interactive discussion forums for them to engage with fellow participants and voice their thoughts on the caucuses.”

Typical of the comments, Schmidt said, was this from a Spanish network correspondent, who said that in 45 minutes, he got insights that improved his coverage of the American presidential candidate selection process “and with great humor and interesting anecdotes.”

More than 400 people have participated in the previous session. The basic content in each session is the same, Chatterjee said, “but infused with the latest happenings in the caucus and political scene with analysis by Dr. Schmidt.”

Schmidt also will explain how the GOP and Democratic caucuses actually work on caucus night. Each party has its own format for measuring candidate support.


Participants can spend just as much time as they want in the course, Schmidt said, and they can engage in discussions with him and other participants. So far, more than 400 people have taken the online class, Schmidt said.

He also invites participants to share Iowa caucus stories, images, audio, movies and text that will be added to the Iowa caucuses MOOC Museum.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com


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