More humanities seminars online, and they’re not MOOCs

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Starting this January forty (40) humanities seminars will kick into action, online.  Twenty-one American colleges and universities are offering these classes for students on each others’ campuses, through an innovative project coordinated by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC).

These classes cover an impressive area of subjects, from Magic and Witchcraft in British Literature to Ways of Seeing Byzantium.  Some are very specific (the Future of Reading), while others are broader (modern European history, American literature).

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Some students will experience these entirely online, while those taking classes at the same institution where the professor works will have a blended learning combination.

The advantages for faculty and their campuses are important.  Professors get to teach classes in their specialties, while enjoying a broader group of students (remember that this is a national effort).

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 Campuses get to see higher numbers in upper-level humanities seminars, while at the same time expanding the curriculum they present to students.

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Note, too, that the teaching methods are not uniform.  Each professor selects from a wide range of online approaches, suiting them to their particular style and subject.

Profs and local support staff created these courses over a two-year process.  Indeed, this is the second round of classes, as the first one occurred earlier this year (2015).  Convened by the CIC, participants met face-to-face and worked online to brainstorm, develop, then offer these classes.  In full disclosure, I helped with some of these meetings, and was delighted at how they went.  Faculty and staff from across the country met each other for the first time, then compared notes and pooled resources to learn from their collective experience.

As a humanist, I’m thrilled to see humanists – my people! – striding into the online world with such a solid program.  It reminds me of the Sunoikisis program, which constitutes something like a virtual classics department.  Indeed, I’ve joked that the CIC consortium classes represent a mini-campus in their breadth, diversity, and seriousness.

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I’m looking forward to seeing these 21st-century classes in action in just a few months.

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