And so the world history MOOC madness begins…

8 09 2012

While the class itself doesn’t start for a week or so yet, I just got my introductory e-mail for the Coursera world history course I’m taking. Therefore, I thought I’d begin down a path that’s already been done better elsewhere, and try to blog the experience.

The first thing I need to say before I start any of this is that there’s a copyright warning at the bottom of the course homepage. I think it’s intended for the tests and lectures, but that still seems odd, don’t you think? Wouldn’t that be covered in the honor code? Either way, I’m going to play it safe and not quote any course or course-related materials at all here on the blog.*

That’s kind of a shame because the first issue I want to touch on has to do with language. When I signed up for this MOOC, practically the first thing I did was not that the textbook is only recommended. Then I pilloried the course for not being as rigorous as it would be at Princeton, where our super-professor, Jeremy Adelman, is based.

On the one hand, the welcome message from Professor Adelman is much stronger about the need to read the textbook. On the other hand, it’s still not required.

But here’s the really interesting thing that I didn’t realize until I decided to actually buy the book: Adelman is one of the co-authors. I have no special knowledge of the man’s contract, but it stands to reason that if even a small percentage of the approximately 70,000 students who’ve signed up for this course actually buy the textbook (particularly if they pay the $85 that Amazon wants for a hard copy), he and his co-authors are going to make a pretty penny from this thing. Personally, I’m going to deliberately annoy myself by purchasing the e-textbook so that I can enjoy the entire 21st century student experience.

Sarcasm aside, I do want to note two features of this MOOC that I do wholeheartedly support. First, the course has supplementary global dialogues in which Princeton students and MOOC participants can ask questions and hear answers from special guests who appear to be mostly other Princeton professors. [Not being my field, the only name I recognize is Anthony Grafton.] Second, the guide to writing is already available and it emphasizes the importance of both evidence and argument.

So we’ll see what happens when the rubber meets the road. The actual instruction begins September 16.

* If you want to see what I’m talking about, why not sign up for the course yourself? After all, what’s the worse that can happen? It’s not as if you’ll have to pay back your tuition if you don’t finish it.

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3 responses

9 09 2012
James Atherton

Taking you at your word–I’ve posted this invitation on my blog: http://recentreflection.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/on-doing-mooc.html

1 10 2012
MOOCs and the History Classroom « Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics

[...] was surprised by how crassly capitalistic a company offering a “free” course could be. Referring to the textbook, which was not required, Rees wrote, But here’s the really interesting thing that I didn’t [...]

8 05 2013
Coursera, Chegg, and the Education Enclosure Movement

[...] stream too. And it also provides one for the authors of the textbooks — authors that are, in many cases, the professors of the MOOCs as [...]

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