Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Get 2 limited-edition podcast mugs when you make a sustaining gift of $8 or more per month today!

Online Course Offers N.H. Primary Experience To Political Junkies Across Globe

The Associated Press

A free online course this fall focused on the New Hampshire Primary is likely to attract political junkies from the Granite State and beyond.

"FIRST! Understanding New Hampshire Presidential Primary" is the University of New Hampshire’s first Massive Open Online Course. It's open to anyone, anywhere.

It will explore the history of the First-in-the-Nation primary, and follow the 2016 primary as it unfolds.

The course will be taught by UNH political science professors Andrew Smith and Dante Scala.

Morning Edition producer Michael Brindley spoke with Scala about what he hopes people take away from the course.

Where did the idea for this course come from?

The idea came from a conversation my colleague Andrew Smith and I had about a year or two ago. He and I have both taught courses on the New Hampshire Primary and the presidential nomination process separately in our careers. Andy’s taught the course at UNH now for a few cycles. And we thought it would be fun to teach it together and combine our different experiences with the New Hampshire Primary. He and I have conversations all the time about candidates and how people are doing. We thought it would be fun to do that together in a classroom in front of people who are interested in politics.

Credit University of New Hampshire
Dante Scala

Then, we thought it would be interesting to have that course online to reach out around the country to people who really enjoy following politics from the comfort of their living room. These are people who would actually think about traveling to New Hampshire the week before the primary just to see the candidates and the media people. People who go home at night from work and watch Fox News or MSNBC because they’re political junkies and that’s their hobby.

I would envision the student base being a mix of that: political junkies and maybe even high school students who are enrolled in a course but want to do something else beyond that.

Certainly one group is those political junkies who are adults and have jobs out in the world but love following politics and love following what’s happening in New Hampshire to give them an inside look at the New Hampshire Primary and how it actually works.

Another audience we’re hoping to tap into is high school and middle school students around New Hampshire and hopefully around the country. We're going to be talking to New Hampshire social studies teachers in the hopes that they can use our course in some way in their own classroom to teach their students a little bit more about the New Hampshire primary and their special political heritage they're inheriting here.

This is referred to as a Massive Open Online Course. What does that mean?

First, it means it’s free. It’s open admission and anyone’s invited to join for part of it or the whole thing. We’re planning on offering a certificate for people who complete the course along with all the accompanying exercises. We’re going to have discussion boards where students can write in to us and have discussions about the topics of the week. It’s not a credit-bearing course, but it’s a course for people to educate themselves. We’ve seen these MOOCs take place around the country. I think this is the first one on the New Hampshire Primary. We have a counterpart out in Iowa who’s doing a similar course on the Iowa caucuses.

This course starts in October, so part of the appeal I would think will be that you’re teaching it as the primary actually unfolds. How to you plan to wrap in the real-life ongoing primary with the course?

A lot of what we’re doing, because it’s so time intensive, we’re taping ahead of time. But we’re planning every week from October to December to tape a couple segments live, so to speak, to give people a sense of what’s happening in New Hampshire and offer some analysis of where we see the primary going. Those live segments will be integrated with the things we’re doing ahead of time on the history of the New Hampshire primary.

And I would think part of the appeal is anyone across the world could enroll in this.

Absolutely. We’re hoping to give to people who can’t travel here in person a front row seat. 

Michael serves as NHPR's Program Director. Michael came to NHPR in 2012, working as the station's newscast producer/reporter. In 2015, he took on the role of Morning Edition producer. Michael worked for eight years at The Telegraph of Nashua, covering education and working as the metro editor.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.