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Latest U-M teach-out focuses on presidential election process

Written by Jared Wadley and Laurel Thomas, Michigan News

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan is encouraging learners to dialogue, to participate and to gain greater insights into the U.S. presidential election process through its 30th teach-out.

“Why Iowa? A Primer on Primaries and Caucuses Teach-Out,” which began Jan. 29, features experts in politics, political science and education at U-M, the University of Delaware, the University of Iowa, and the Iowa Caucus Project at Drake University. They will discuss the complexities of the U.S. presidential election process and define sometimes unfamiliar terms like “Super Tuesday,” delegates and incumbents, primaries and caucuses, and more.

Throughout this interactive learning event, experts and participants are invited to discuss the following questions:

  • What is the U.S. primary process?
  • What are the differences and similarities between primaries vs. caucuses?
  • Why do Iowa and New Hampshire get to go first?
  • What role do delegates play?
  • What is Super Tuesday?
  • Is there a difference between political parties in how the primary process functions?
  • Do incumbent candidates have an advantage?
  • How do other countries’ voting processes differ?
  • How are U.S. territories involved?

Teach-out coordinators selected this topic because the timeliness of the U.S. primary process aligned with deep expertise at U-M.

“We were moved by the focus on the Iowa Caucuses and wanted to create something that would help learners make sense of the process as a whole,” said Benjamin Morse, design manager in the Center for Academic Innovation.

Morse also said the global community of learners represented in the teach-out provides a unique opportunity to bring in voices from outside of the U.S., who are watching the process from afar and would like to understand it more effectively.

Learners will have access to all content and can view the videos and engage in discussion with other learners at their own pace. Videos vary in length from one minute to around 10 minutes. Participants should follow the videos in sequence but have the flexibility to engage in videos out of sequence or return to previous videos at any time. The online learning event is free to the public and delivered on Coursera, an online learning platform. The teach-out will run until March 10.

In mid-February, experts will answer questions posed by learners participating in the teach-out.

Now in its third year, the series—launched by the U-M Center for Academic Innovation—is a way to address current issues and topics in a digital age.

Teach-outs are modeled after the teach-ins of the 1960s, which physically brought people to campus for a short-term, intensive educational experience on a timely topic. Teach-outs take advantage of current technology to engage learners through videos and interactive discussions.

Since deploying its first teach-out in March 2017, U-M has collaborated with more than 250 experts and engaged with almost 90,000 learners from around the world using this model.

This teach-out will also serve as a springboard to the 2020 election year. On Oct. 15, 2020, U-M will host the second presidential debate just prior to the November general election.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the university community to engage in shaping democracy and this initial teach-out is one way that we will connect University of Michigan scholars with engaged citizens,” Morse said.


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