MOOC season: Hamlet

Is it possible to MOOC yourself to death? I may have an answer to that question in the next three weeks.

I didn’t intend to take eight concurrent classes (which will become nine only nine days from now). They all just looked so good! How can you resist Hamlet, Whitman, Irrational Behavior, corpus Linguistics, Constitutional Law, and, oh, by the way, four math courses, which is just plain ridiculous. True, two of those four are repeats, but I’m repeating them for a reason.

That’s the nice thing about MOOCs: you can retake courses without stigma. And, of course, without cost.

I just finished the six-week Hamlet course taught by Michael Dobson of the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon (for a touch of authenticity), and offered on FutureLearn, the UK’s answer to Coursera. It wasn’t quite the course I was expecting; rather than a discussion of the play as literature, there was an emphasis on the theatre aspect, including detailed history of the various versions of the play and the Elizabethan theatre. In retrospect, I probably should’ve seen that coming. Since I’ve never seen a live performance of Hamlet, and since I’m not entirely up on the details of the play, I was behind the eight-ball from the start; I should’ve put in more preparation, but I expected the course to cover the play itself. Still, it was worthwhile, well-presented, and for people with more interest in theatre than literature, I’d highly recommend it.

I’m quite impressed with the FutureLearn platform. While there are a few additions I’d like to see to the communicative aspect, in my opinion they’re miles ahead of EdX, where I continue to struggle to find my own comments, let alone another person.

Since I’ll be in a serious time crunch over the next three or four weeks, I’m going to temporarily cut back my posting schedule to a Pushcart poem, and – maybe – one prose piece. I could drop some of the courses I’m taking, I suppose, and take them later, but I’m enjoying them; even the ones I have quibbles about are worthwhile, and later on there will be other courses I’ll want to take (I’ve already got four scheduled for September).

I want to keep better track of my impressions by blogging about the courses, so I’ll be back with more details as each ends. If I survive.


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