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March 25, 2012 - 9:45pm



Things do seem to be coming together.  I've got well over a hundred students, from around the world, and more and more names, each day, appear in my inbox (when a person enrolls, I get an email).  Yesterday I recorded my third lecture, Distinguishing Between Good and Bad Poetry.  (You can enroll in the series - it's free - by going here and scrolling down to Poetry.) 

My techie sister comes over to my place every Saturday at around eleven.  We have brunch at Black Market Bistro, down the street from my house, and then we set up a shot in front of my baby grand.  The room has lots of windows.  Yesterday was overcast, but plenty of light came through.  Roughly once per lecture you can hear a train.  Local color.

Sometimes many registrants appear all at once in my mail, and I wonder if some teacher in Tunisia has told her class to enroll or something.  I'm very conscious, when I lecture, of my foreign audience, and I make an effort to speak pretty slowly, and to enunciate.  I want people to hear good English.  The Brits have no monopoly on this.  You can sound good in American, too.

Tim, at Udemy, has been terrific - responding to my emails right away, and helping me with technical glitches.  But there haven't been that many.  Filming and uploading one's own lectures turns out not to be that difficult - although my sister is still working on inserting material into my lectures (links, clips, etc.).  We're getting there. 

Meanwhile, links to the poems and essays I talk about are in each lecture's written description, visible just below the film.

I'm having a blast.  I like spending the week collecting material, and my thoughts, for the next lecture.  I like the way a MOOC allows me to distill my responses to poetry in a new way, with a new freedom.  As the lectures take shape, I see my understandings of poetry form a comprehensive argument about the genre that I'd never before pulled together. 


Jacob, one of my independent study students this semester, came into my office last Wednesday and said he's writing an opinion piece for the George Washington University newspaper about how GW should offer MOOCs, or at least MOOCish type things (there are variations among open courses), to the world, the way MIT and Stanford do. 

"I checked to see whether anyone at GW is doing MOOCs, and all I came up with was... you!" 

So he did a spot interview with me before we began discussing Infinite Jest, and I talked about my baby MOOC.

As to the relationship between liberal arts institutions and MOOCs - well, a good place to start reading the (very preliminary) discussion about that is here.

But I'll say what I've already (in my last IHE post about that) said: I think the sort of MOOC I'm involved in has very little to do with the experience of a liberal arts education.  I don't think it competes with, or threatens it, in any way.  It offers no credits and costs nothing and pays me nothing.  It is a freely offered effort to expand knowledge to the globe in a simple and direct way. 

As to why a university would want to offer MOOCs - I think they are an instance of outreach, the sort of thing all schools with a social conscience, and with a desire to be better known by the world, might want to look into.  I don't see any imperative for a university to MOOC-about if it doesn't want to, but it's an obvious social good, and involvement in it signals a university's openness to new forms of knowledge.


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