Tokyo Tech News

Revised autophagy MOOC released on edX


Published: September 21, 2018

Revised Autophagy banner image

Revised Autophagy banner image

A revised version of the edX1 MOOC2 "Autophagy: Research Behind the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine outer," prepared by the Online Education Development Office (OEDO), was released on July 25. Honorary Professor Yoshinori Ohsumi, Associate Professor Hitoshi Nakatogawa, and Specially Appointed Assistant Professor Alexander May from Tokyo Tech and the University of Tokyo Professor Noboru Mizushima participated in the project, marking the first collaboration on MOOC preparation between the two institutions.

The three-week course, taught in self-paced mode, was revised based on learner feedback received during the first course run in the fall of 2017, comments from OEDO teaching assistants (TAs), quiz response analysis, and a course evaluation provided by Stanford University's Director of Digital Learning Design Dr. Grace Lyo and Columbia University's Associate Dean for Online Education Alexis Seeley. A paper summarizing external evaluation and revision of the course will be presented at the Japan Society for Education Technology conference on September 28, 2018 in Sendai, Japan.

(from left) Lyo, Seeley, Cross, and Assoc. Prof. Hideki Mori at MOOC evaluation meeting in March 2018

(from left) Lyo, Seeley, Cross, and Assoc. Prof. Hideki Mori at MOOC evaluation meeting in March 2018

The MOOC revision took approximately six months and was carried out by 12 TAs working together with OEDO general manager Professor Jeffrey Cross. OEDO works closely with instructors and teaching assistants as it continuously trains both on how to prepare online courses. For doctoral TAs, many of whom will be faculty members in the future, this type of opportunity to create an online course is a valuable learning experience.

Comments from Tokyo Tech TAs who worked as course content creators

Nguyen Thanh Hoa

I have previously studied some online courses on my own, but to be a part of the course team to make this autophagy course was a life changing experience. I was fascinated by the fact that all videos are made not only based on the fundamental knowledge delivered to learners, but also video editing techniques that maintain learner video engagement. The quiz question analysis based on correct and incorrect answers submitted was amazing. The course team gained a clearer view of why and what learners had difficulties understanding based on the quiz response analysis.

Nguyen is a 1st-year doctoral student at the Department of Life Science and Technology. She is currently carrying out research on pathogenic yeast in the human gut.

Anie Day

Revising the course highlighted the need for more guidance to learners in areas like course quizzes, and explaining figures and other data used in slides that are important components for learning about autophagy. The revision also allowed me to learn what questions are appropriate for Student Q&A, the new video segment in Week 3, based on actual discussion board questions posted by learners during the first release. Furthermore, by monitoring the discussion board, I learned that many learners have more detailed questions about the autophagy mechanism and that discussion between learners themselves is very significant for understanding course content.

Day is a doctoral student at the Laboratory for Advanced Nuclear Energy. She is carrying out research on DNA repair and radiation biology under the guidance of Associate Professor Yoshihisa Matsumoto.

Autophagy planning meeting with TAs and OEDO staff on Suzukakedai Campus

Autophagy planning meeting with TAs and OEDO staff on Suzukakedai Campus

Autophagy video recording session with the instructor and TA

Autophagy video recording session with the instructor and TA

The autophagy MOOC has attracted approximately 1,000 learners in the first two weeks since its release. It targets the general public and covers the following topics:

  • Week 1:Basic Mechanisms and Roles of Autophagy
  • Week 2:Dr. Ohsumi's Nobel Prize Winning Research
  • Week 3:The Role of Autophagy in Our Bodies, Links to Human Diseases, Autophagy in Mammals and the Future of Autophagy Research

To learn more about autophagy, see the course websiteouter.

1 edX

A non-profit educational organization comprised of the world's top universities, led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. edX provides an environment where anyone in the world with internet access can study university-level courses grounded in the latest teaching and learning-based research.


Massive Open Online Course. An online course that is open to anyone with internet access and free of charge. Like a regular course, it has a scheduled time frame and learners can enjoy two-way communication with instructors and other learners in an interactive learning environment.


Online Education Development Office,

Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning