It seems that MOOC’s – Massive open online courses – have been talked about from the Huffington Post to the most humble blogs. Recently, I had the honor of participating in one of the more famous ones, Modern and Contemporary Poetry (or ModPo), taught by Al Fileris of University of Pennsylvania on Coursera.org.
The sign up process is simple. You go to Coursera.org, register, choose from a list of courses, and wait for the class to begin. Class sizes usually are within the thousands range. Though large classes usually prevent teacher – student interaction, and, therefore, hinder the student from accessing the help they may need to understand the material, the online (and offline) community developed by the ModPo students allowed for collaboration that aided many distressed people. Each class has its own forums to encourage discussions of ideas and improve our understanding of the subject. You can follow threads with your email account, as well, so when you go to delete that wonderful spam from your inbox, you stumble upon new comments on a post you had made.
Most of the class consists of video lectures. The professor will post some videos approximately ten to fifteen minutes long, and you must be able to gather enough will power – and patience – to watch them all. If you can’t find the time or interest to do so, you can drop the class. Go to your account, press the DROP CLASS button, and you aren’t required to watch the videos anymore – not that you ever required in the first place, but now you won’t feel so guilty about missing out. Of all the classes I’ve begun (exactly 3), I have dropped two. My reasons? The lectures in the dropped classes weren’t engaging, so I left the class without any harm to my future at Coursera or my purse.
The class I continued, ModPo, was brilliantly taught. The videos presented analyses of various poems with clarity and humor. The interaction Al Fileris held with his Teacher Assistants in his discussions transcended his videos, allowing for me to feel as if I was participating with them. Al and the TA’s were present in the discussion forums, as well, adding their own advice and funny comments. Even their presence on the ModPo Facebook page is appreciated, and I can hardly log-on without a new website link to discover.
In high school, it’s rare to find a small group of people who actively engage in their studies, but, because of ModPo, there seems to be developing a wonderful erudite community. This class is one of the best arguments for free online education for the populist, and I’d recommend Coursera to all who enjoy learning because of it.