Learn and take action with three new Teach-Outs from JHU, Emory, and the University of Michigan

A guest post written by: 

Benjamin Morse, Design Manager

University of Michigan

Stephanie Parisi, Associate Director of Instructional Design

Emory University


Rebecca G. Williams, Research Program Manager

Johns Hopkins University


Our world is evolving rapidly and the need to understand complex societal issues and engage in productive and civil discourse has never been higher. Today’s issues may be different than those in the past, but one thing is certain, we need more ways to facilitate connections, share information and narrative, and build skills and tools to take action.

What is a Teach-Out? 

Teach-Outs bring learners together from around the world to learn about and discuss salient social topics and consider actions to take within their own contexts (more at TeachOut.org). In a Teach-Out:

  • How, and how much, to participate is up to you
  • There aren’t quizzes or checkpoints
  • Experts come together to engage with the world in a broad discussion around key social issues central to our every day lives and relationships

Learn more about three brand-new Teach-Outs on gun violence prevention policies, education journeys, and the history and processes of primary elections from the experts that created them. 

Rebecca G. Williams, Research Program Manager

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) launched its first Teach-Out on January 20, 2020. This pilot learning event, Firearm Purchaser Licensing Teach-Out: The Background Check Policy Not Enough People are Talking About, has been a collaborative effort on behalf of the Center for Gun Policy and Research and Center for Teaching and Learning of JHU’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

JHU has been a long-time proponent of web-based learning, launching 91 total courses and enrolling more than 7 million learners across 195 countries since 2012. In the wake of the tragic 2017 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas highschool in Parkland, Florida, the surge of youth activism and rise of the gun violence prevention advocacy movement compelled researchers at the Center for Gun Policy and Research to create the first massive open online course (MOOC) on gun violence prevention.

Rebecca G. Williams interviewing Baltimore City residents in the East Baltimore neighborhood to learn their perspectives on gun violence and how it impacts them and their communities.

Our goal was to provide youth with the best available science and insights on gun violence as well as the skills to understand which interventions are the most effective. We invited experts outside of JHU and intentionally curated our content to reach a broader audience than that typical of other JHU online courses.

After the success of our online course Reducing Gun Violence in America: Evidence for Change, which incorporates the contributions of more than 20 experts representing organizations and institutions across the country and was promoted to national networks of youth advocates on behalf of March For Our Lives shortly after launching in May 2019, we saw an opportunity to further address learners’ interest in this subject in a Teach-Out.  

The Center for Gun Policy and Research and the Center for Teaching and Learning redefined the boundaries of JHU’s open education environment and have continued to harness the benefits of collaboration through their first adaptation of the Teach-Out model with Firearm Purchaser Licensing: The Background Check Policy Not Enough People are Talking About.

Stephanie Parisi, Associate Director of Instructional Design

Emory University

In April 2019, Emory launched their first Teach-Out titled “Making” Progress (read more about that project in this blog). The Teach-Out was integrated with an on-campus course and its development involved several members of the Emory and Atlanta community. The collaboration and creation of the Teach-Out was so powerful and impactful that even almost a year later, the connections made during the teach-out have generated more collaborations and conversations. Looking back at that experience, we knew we could take it to the next level the second time around.

This year, we chose to base our Teach-Out on themes from Emory’s Common Read, Educated by Tara Westover. The Journeys to Education Teach-Out collects perspectives from faculty, students, staff, administrators, and community members, including Richard Blanco, fifth presidential inaugural poet. Our hope is that participants will reflect upon their own unique educational journeys and consider sharing them as part of a larger conversation about the many ways individuals experience education in different stages of their lives. With the Teach-Outs, Emory’s motivation has been to facilitate conversations around difficult topics and promote the respectful sharing of perspectives. We care deeply about and are committed to community engagement and social impact.

Sonya Owens with Dr. Jan Barton. Videographer Raymond McCrea Jones and assistant, Dave.

Benjamin Morse, Design Manager

University of Michigan 

Since March 2017, the University of Michigan has launched 29 Teach-Outs on four platforms, collaborated with more than 250 experts, and engaged with more than 88,000 learners from around the world using this model. On January 29, 2020, we launched our 30th Teach-Out, the Why Iowa? A Primer on Primaries and Caucuses Teach-Out, on Coursera. This Teach-Out will delve into the history and processes of the U.S. presidential primary elections and will provide learners resources and strategies to get involved in their own contexts. 

This Teach-Out serves as a springboard into the 2020 election year in the U.S. and kicks-off our Center’s efforts to create a range of open online learning experiences focused on U.S. politics and civic engagement. On October 15, 2020, the University of Michigan will host a 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. 

We hope that you join us, both as a learner and a teacher, in these Teach-Outs to help reimagine how we connect with one another in the digital age and what we can do as a society to solve our most pressing issues. In our collective experience, fostering these connections requires commitment to the core tenants of the Teach-Out model: bringing diverse perspectives together to learn about, discuss, and consider action, all built on a strong foundation of shared values and trust. 

About the authors

Rebecca G. Williams

In her role as a core member of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research (JHCGPR) study team, Rebecca’s work is central to gun violence prevention research translation. At JHCGPR, she is responsible for managing the design and development of open education initiatives which first began with the first gun violence MOOC, Reducing Gun Violence in America: Evidence for Change. Rebecca attended University of Michigan’s 2019 Teach-Out Academy and is the Program Manager for Johns Hopkins University’s inaugural Teach-Out on Firearm Purchaser Licensing:The Background Check Not Enough People are Talking About. Learn more about her work by reading her full bio here

Stephanie Parisi 

Stephanie supports faculty as they prepare to design and teach online, hybrid, and blended courses at Emory University. She collaborates with faculty to envision massive open online courses (MOOCs) for the Coursera platform and also serves as an advisor for instructional design and eLearning development. She has been at the forefront of several innovative teaching projects, most recently the Teach-Out initiative. Formerly with the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, Stephanie now serves as the Associate Director of Instructional Design with Goizueta Business School at Emory.



Benjamin Morse, Design Manager 

Benjamin facilitates the work of the Center for Academic Innovation by managing the scoping, design, and development of Teach-Outs (more at teachout.org) and other learning initiatives at the Center to deliver high-­quality online learning experiences with an emphasis on public engagement and actionable outcomes. (Full Bio Here)

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