MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. Emphasis on “massive.” More than 3,000 people from across the world registered in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program’s first poetry MOOC (see a sampling of course videos below). According to their website about it, theirs is the first MOOC to workshop students’ poetry, online.
The course started June 28th and runs to August 9, 2014; they’re still accepting new students. There are no prerequisites and it’s free to join. You can do all the assignments and chat in forums, or you can do what you did in university the first time around: sleep in, goof off, come to every second lecture hung over and borrow the notes from… no one. Ever.
The first MOOC came out of the University of Manitoba, in 2008. Since then some American universities copied us and MOOCs have become increasingly popular. The evolution from correspondence, to continuing studies to Open Learning universities to MOOCs is obvious, in the way all things are when you look back lo these many six years. The advantages to taking a MOOC are the same as previous distance-learning courses — do it at your own pace, in your jammies, with no annoying students wasting class time with their whining or see-how-smart-I-am “questions” — and MOOCs go one better: they’re free.
For free you get lectures, assignments, class forums and sometimes faculty feedback. What you don’t get is a formal credit towards a recognized degree program. You are welcome, however, to type “M.O.O.C. Star” after your signature, upon completion of your first MOOC. Or just go ahead and start doing it now, no one will check. Because no one can.
Does this mean that the end of formal college and university education is within (laser-enhanced) sight? Maybe. Probably. I’m going to say Yes, for sure. Let the cerebrations begin.
If you’re curious about what’s available, check out Coursera. The short answer is: just about anything. In many languages. From their website:
Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.
We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education. We aim to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.
But back to the Iowa poetry MOOC. There are two videos uploaded to the site each week, on Tuesday and Saturday – you could call these talks, or mini-lectures. Each video, which you can watch at any time that week or thereafter (in your jimjams, at the cottage or while fake-listening to your boring date), runs from 20 to 40 minutes. Experienced poets will appreciate some of the talks as brush-ups, and new poets will stop and start the videos, madly taking notes. Or you could just go to that one woman’s website who told everyone she’d take good notes for her classmates. All 3,000 of them.
You are encouraged to give feedback to other students’ poetic offerings (with the strict proviso that you play fair and keep your mean-spirited ego in check, which, incredulously, the vast majority are managing to do). You can converse with each other about specific poems or about poetry in general. A lucky 10 are chosen by moderators to have their poem “workshopped” (constructive critique) online each week. Moderators, all Iowa University Writing Program graduates themselves, take turns moderating discussions and workshops and, because MOOCs aren’t limited to a particular time zone, something is always happening on the course site, 24/7.
They’re still taking registration, so if you are interested, sign up. Meanwhile, here are links to some of the course videos. If you watch only one, I recommend the first one, for Robert Hass’ idea about the writer’s notebook.
And when you’re looking at their site, note their next MOOC venture!
1. Sketching Techniques (Robert Hass)
2. Collecting and Repurposing Lines (Kate Greenstreet and Lucy Ives)
3. Building a Poem (Daniel Khalastchi)
5. Prosody (Richard Kenney and William Trowbridge)
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss