Monday, September 24, 2012

Fantasy and Sci-Fi for Free: Online Courses through Coursera

I read recently that the University of Maryland, College Park is the latest university to join the ranks of those institutions offering free full-length online courses through the web platform, Coursera. Since this movement began I have been a supporter, but I never actually took time to read through their vision or explore the classes they have since provided to the world's fingertips.  

After an intense review of their site, I am happy to discover both the wealth of knowledge in nearly every subject -- from Neuroethics to the Science of Gastronomy, plus some impressive literary courses! (more on that in a bit) --  as well as the clearly defined pedagogy they employ in accomplishing this monumental task.  As the world embraces and becomes entrenched more deeply in the clutches of technology, it is important to know how to adapt our learning and teaching methods to the online platform. Coursera's mission is a good case study I think; it will be worthwhile to track the efficacy of these courses and the impact they ultimately have on the public.

As to courses related to the subject of Children's Literature, one particular course of merit is Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, taught by Professor Eric Rabkin of the University of Michigan. The course aims to demonstrate the illumination of the human mind through fantasy literature and discuss science fiction's importance as the "only [fictional form of fantasy] that explicitly recognizes the profound ways in which science and technology, those key products of the human mind, shape not only our world but our very hopes and fears."

Another course, Online Games: Literature, New Media,and Narrative discusses how stories are transformed when shift from one medium to another.  Central focus will be on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but will also explore romance narratives as well.  Pertinent to how many young adults perceive storytelling today, this class targets those interested in current culture of media and how this "medium is altering our understanding of stories."

The dates for Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World have not been announced yet.  

Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative is a 7-week course scheduled for July 2013.

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