The George Washington University announced that it will offer its first-ever massive open online course (MOOC) on the Federal Reserve. The announcement was made at “Past, Present and Future of the Federal Reserve System,” an all-day symposium held on Friday, which featured former leaders of the Federal Reserve; Rep. Jim Himes, D-Ct.; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Liaquat Ahamed and other finance and government experts. The symposium is the first of four to be organized by GW over the next 12 months to mark the Federal Reserve’s 100th anniversary.
The announcement came during the symposium “Past, Present and Future of the Federal Reserve System.”
December 16, 2013
Paul Schiff Berman, vice provost for online education and academic innovation, explained at Friday’s symposium that the free course will be open to the public through a collaborative effort between GW, Pearson Education, Blackboard Inc. and In the Telling, a documentary film-education company. He said that the class will examine the Federal Reserve using material from Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke’s lectures at GW, an event last spring featuring former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker and interviews with leading scholars, policymakers, critics and current and former Federal Reserve officials.
“There are very few institutions that are simultaneously so important and so little understood as the Federal Reserve,” Dr. Berman said. “This MOOC will be a significant, non-partisan contribution to public discourse on the Fed, and it will use the online medium in new and innovative ways in order to reach a broader public.”
Provost Steven Lerman added that because of its location at the center of policy and government, the George Washington University has a responsibility to convene experts for educational discourse.
“This series reflects one of our core strengths as a university and is closely linked with our strategic goals in the area of governance and policy,” Dr. Lerman said. “We are consistently able to provide public access to leaders in public policy and, through our scholarly research and our convening role, to deepen public understanding of the key issues underlying influential institutions of governance. The MOOC is an extension of that commitment and expands our relationship with key governmental agencies.”
Dr. Lerman said the MOOC will not be built around the traditional classroom approach that is standard among large-scale online courses. Instead, it will have a more narrative format, with documentary-style interviews conducted by School of Media and Public Affairs Director and former CNN anchor Frank Sesno, and detailed reporting, combined with intensive interactive learning modules. The seven-week, non-credit course is planned to launch in fall 2014, and registration will begin in summer 2014. A certificate of completion will be awarded to students who successfully pass a final exam. Other MOOCs are in development and will be announced in early 2014.
Chairman and Professor of Finance at the GW School of Business Robert Van Order and President of Vital Venture Networks Michael Whitehouse also provided introductory remarks at the symposium. Dr. Van Order said he hoped the symposium series would mark the end of the Federal Reserve operating during a bad economy. Mr. Whitehouse, who coordinated the symposium’s program and speakers, shared his experience researching on and working in the Federal Reserve before introducing the first panel.
Arthur E. Wilmarth Jr., professor of law and executive director of the Center for Law, Economics and Finance (C-LEAF), moderated a discussion between two leading scholars of central baking: Mr. Ahamed, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World,” and Simon Johnson, professor of entrepreneurship at MIT and a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. Both scholars provided a history of the Federal Reserve, examining its leadership from 1913 to 2013.
The panel was followed by an interview, “An Insider's View of the Fed from a Former Vice Chairman and Leading Monetary Economist.” David Wessel, an economics editor at the Wall Street Journal and author of the New York Times best-seller, “In Fed We Trust,” interviewed Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Donald L. Kohn.
The symposium closed with two afternoon panels. One session featured Rep. Himes, a member of the House Financial Services Committee; Al Broaddus, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond; Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at GW; Peter Conti-Brown, an academic fellow at Stanford University; and Susan Phillips, former dean of the GW School of Business, former member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and former chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Dr. Van Order moderated the discussion, which focused on how the Federal Reserve can balance being an independent central bank while also being held accountable for its actions in Congress and in the country.
The final panel brought experts together for a cross-national look at how central banks operate worldwide. Nell Henderson, an editor at the Wall Street Journal, served as the panel’s moderator. The featured speakers included Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England; Athanasios Orphanides, an MIT professor, former governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus and a member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank; and Nathan Sheets, global head of international economics at Citigroup Inc. and former director of the Division of International Finance at the Federal Reserve Board.
The final session provided a chance to learn from other countries, Mr. Wilmarth said.
“We’ve started something very important, which is to really re-examine the role central banks have played in this country over the last 100 years, and focus on comparative studies of central banks in other countries,” Mr. Wilmarth said. “I think we can learn from each other, and I think we can start to see some common challenges, problems and institutional structures that may provide helpful ways out of certain dilemmas.”
He ended the symposium by thanking the symposium’s sponsors, the Alfred Sloan Foundation, Euronext and the New York Stock Exchange. He also thanked the program coordinator, Mr. Whitehouse.
“I really look forward to the future events in this series, and to further cross-fertilization across the Atlantic and across the Pacific,” said Mr. Wilmarth.