As I mentioned in my last Academe blog post, we weren’t quite sure what to expect after Duke University adopted Writing Commons as its textbook for its MOOC, English Composition 1, Achieving Expertise. Always the optimist, I imagined 50,000 to 70,000 students all banging on the server door at the same time. Plus, I anticipated additional traffic in April when the Ohio State University would begin its MOOC, Rhetorical Composing, and in May when the Georgia Institute of Technology would begin its MOOC, First-Year Composition 2.0. Worried traffic would crash the server, I wondered if I should upgrade the server package for Writing Commons.
At the same time, I worried that moving to a more expensive, commercial server package would undermine one of the arguments I’ve been making in this Academe blog: that university faculty no longer need publishers because they can reach massive audiences very inexpensively. Over the past five or so years, I’ve been proud of the way Writing Commons reached thousands of users every day on a very inexpensive Go Daddy account–around $100/year. Ultimately, my worry that too many users would bring the server down and embarrass the project motivated me to upgrade the server at Go Daddy.
As it turned out, however, I probably could have stayed on the old server. Ultimately, we never had 50,000 people rush the server at one time. Instead, the global audience for the MOOC came and went throughout the month of March, resulting in our highest visitor rate yet: 99,371 total visitors in March! On 3/18/13, we hosted 7,031 users, which is an exciting new benchmark for us. We remain committed to playing the believing game.
So, where are we? Well, while publication costs are no longer coffee money (it’s about $700 a year), the Writing Commons story still does affirm our open-education approach: faculty are empowered with amazing new tools that help facilitate a global, social pedagogy. As an academic, you can freely share your pedagogical materials and help not only your students but students in other courses around the world.
While it’s certainly rewarding to see visitors consulting our site at any given moment, another measure of success is the time our readers spend on each page. By that measure, we could do better, given most visitors stayed on each page less than several minutes. Then again, maybe that’s how people read these days—skim a page, move on, and come back (perhaps). Everybody is multitasking! That said, when a visitor bounces (that is, when a user consults a single page at Writing Commons rather than multiple pages) our analytics program counts that visitor’s time as zero seconds, so using time on a page as a measure of engagement is somewhat problematic. Plus, we have no way of measuring how long a visitor remains on the last page s/he consults. As an alternative measure of engagement, we could consider the total number of pages consulted. By that lens, we had a terrific month with 236,112 pages consulted.
Lastly, I’d like to mention that in March we published two new webtexts:
- Christine Photinos, National University, “Paragraph Transitions“
- Andrea Scott, Princeton University, “Formulating a Thesis“
By the way, we are currently working on preparing for the next group of MOOC students who will be using Writing Commons: The Ohio State University. More on that shortly . . .