Thinking MOOC

Course: Philosophy and Critical Thinking META101x: Thinking about thinking
School: University of Queensland via edX
Instructors: Deborah Brown, Peter Ellerton, et al
Quote:

We’ll begin by developing some of the intellectual tools we need to analyse the big issues in philosophy – understanding the nature and structure of arguments. We’ll learn what makes an argument compelling, and how we can evaluate arguments to see if they are put together in a convincing way. We will develop this skill all through the course, by applying it across a range of philosophical topics with increasing sophistication. In each module we will be analysing and evaluating arguments.

The Fallacy Referee, the Glossary Fairy, the philosophical Grotesques, illustrations filmed in coffee shops, high school classrooms, duck ponds… Once again, as with the Duke “Think Again” course on argument, I could tell the people making this course had a lot of fun with it. I’m all about goofy, but it wasn’t quite my style of goofy. That’s ok, I’m sure a lot of people thought it was great. I have to give them credit for creative and well-executed graphic and camera work, as well as for enthusiasm.

The course was made up of four week-long modules, each with a series of lectures, conversations (“Philosophers Talk” featuring faculty discussing pertinent topics), readings (“Let’s Philosophize”), discussion topics for the forum (with significant staff support), and ungraded questions and exercises. Grades were based on four exams, one per module. The introductory material indicated three possible tracks to accommodate different goals or different prior coursework. What’s odd is that I couldn’t figure out what went with what track. That’s ok, all MOOCs are pretty much choose-your-adventure.

Some of the lectures and readings seemed a bit vague and cryptic, with more jargon – the endless parade of “isms” – than explanation or framework for understanding. Possibly, these were for “serious” philosophy students and were simply over my head (I’ve been perplexed by underdeterminism before), but I would’ve liked a bit more explanation.

The course has been Archived, which means you can enroll and take the material at your own pace, though there won’t be any grades or discussion forums. It’s not a bad course, just not my cup of tea. If it’d been an 8 week course, I probably would’ve dropped by week 3. But the 4 weeks were worthwhile. There’s a great deal of philosophical info in there. And they really went to a great deal of effort to create the course; dozens of people were involved, from the philosophers discussing their work to TAs enacting little illustrative dramas (in addition to the unseen editors and edtechs). In fact, I’m a bit surprised they’re archiving it after one run, considering how much went into it, and how many discussion questions show up; I’m going to guess it’s some kind of supplement to the in-person philosophy curriculum.

I have a hard time summing up what was covered without listing individual topics: argument structure, validity and soundness, fallacies, philosophy of science, dualism, idealism, realism, this–ism that–ism, analogies, causation… and dozens more. I would imagine to a philosopher, these fit together in a category that covers all these things, but to me it seemed almost like a random collection of philosophical topics about thinking.

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One response to “Thinking MOOC

  1. Pingback: Falling MOOCs | A Just Recompense

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