Class Clip: "Making Government Work in Hard Places"

Jun 04 2015
By Public Affairs

This spring semester Jennifer Widner, professor of politics and international affairs, introduced an online version of her course "Making Government Work in Hard Places." Offered alongside Widner's traditional graduate-level course with 19 enrolled students, the nine-week online course reached more than 2,000 learners from around the world.

Aiming to reach a global audience, Widner made the online class available through NovoEd, a massive open online course (MOOC) platform, which is geared toward teambuilding and discussion. Thanks to the website's robust online messaging and community forums, the MOOC learners were able to foster collaboration across cultures and connect with people with shared interests.

"A lively exchange among people who live in different countries enriches everyone's awareness of the challenges that arise when trying to improve government performance," Widner said. "In both classes, we were aiming to create a network of 'builders' — people who value serving citizens well."

Each week, students in both the online course and bricks-and-mortar Princeton class examined a particular governance topic through the lens of real-world examples. These case studies were compiled by Innovations for Successful Societies (ISS), a center based at the School.

Gordon LaForge, a student in the Master in Public Affairs (MPA) program at the School whose primary focus is international relations, signed up for the class because of his interest in Indonesia and other fragile states. Before coming to Princeton, he lived in Indonesia as a Fulbright English teaching assistant and then a journalist, covering corruption and governance. Due to the class's interaction with the MOOC, LaForge had the opportunity to understand the internal dynamics of many of the countries in the case studies through the perspectives of their residents.

"The diversity of background and experience within our own class is pretty remarkable, and the online course introduced an even richer variety of voices," said LaForge. "The online course afforded access to on-the-ground perspectives as we were able to interact with international students living in the countries we were studying."

To learn more about the class, click here.