I’m taking a class with 7000+ people

And I love it.

Turn Off by Agustinus on Devian Art

You’ve heard of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games) like WOW or Eve Online. But do you know what a MOOC is?

It’s a Massive Open Online Course in which thousands of people from all over the world take part. For two weeks now, more than 7000 of us have been connecting over our class’s theme: Gender Through Comic Books.

The main goal of the non credited class is to allow students to explore matters of gender identity and roles through comic books, while analyzing how these can serve to reinforce or contest gender stereotypes.

More specifically, students are encouraged to learn about the concepts of sex and gender, explain how they are different from one another and discover just how imperfect and often limited these are. In doing so, students are oriented towards a clearer understanding of the process of social construction and assignation of gender roles to individuals.

An initiative of Ball State University’s Christina Blanch, a fellow anthropologist and soon to be Ph.D in Educational Studies, the class involves live video interviews with key members of the comic book industry and interactions with students, video lectures, a few academic readings, lots of discussions on forums, Twitter and Facebook and, of course, a good dose of comic books to analyse each week.

Students are therefore taking part in a highly engaging, highly social and, in my opinion, a highly enjoyable and rewarding experience.

They can exchange about issues that are sometimes sensitive and emotionally charged in a safe and troll-free environment. The many discussion boards help people who share interests or common experiences come together. The intense activity on every student’s Twitter or Facebook profile can grab the attention of their network and help raise awareness about gender stereotypes and roles.

But if the instructor doesn’t give grades or credits, are people learning anything?

It would certainly seem so, judging by the quality, and intensity, of the debates going on in discussion boards. The questions submitted during live interviews raise important issues and sometimes leave the guest struggling or having to pause to put thoughts together. Despite the relaxed context of the course, the materials is of good quality and the students provide impressive efforts and insights. Of course, not all 7000+ students are highly vocal, but it is possible to follow the course without committing to the social side of the course.

The only expenses related to taking the course is the purchase  of comic books on Comixology at a special discount price. It is available on the Canvas network and although it is already full for this semester, other registration possibilities might be announced in coming months.

In the mean time, check out the #SuperMOOC hashtag on Twitter and the public Facebook page for the class! You’ll be able to follow up on some interesting news and debates.

– The Geek Anthropologist

About Marie-Pierre Renaud

I am an anthropologist living in Quebec city, Canada. I specialize in native studies and anthropology of health. I am a geek. I founded and now co-manage The Geek Anthropologist blog. I am working on transforming my memoir into a book and journal articles. I like to knit while watching Star Trek. Reach out to me for collaborations! https://mariepierrerenaud.co/

There are 13 comments

  1. Miriam Lozada

    Hello, I just find out about your blog through the SUPERMOOC followers list in tweeter. and it looks pretty cool. I did not know anthropologists are such a cool tribe. I am definetly following your blog. I really having a great time learning about Gender and Comic books. Greetings from Venezuela


  2. angryscholar

    Howdy. I’m a newcomer to your blog, but at a glance it seems pretty aces.

    I’m also a graduate student in an ethnographic discipline. I’ve never taken an online course, but I’m becoming increasingly interested in their flexibility (which may also be a function of my increasing disillusionment with traditional university settings).

    Anyhoo, thanks for posting this. I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff.


    1. The Geek Anthropologist

      Hello newcomer!

      I’m glad to see your comment is much nicer than what your name might have initially suggested! 😉

      Online classes are certainly great and flexible. The SuperMooc is particularly great to connect and share with people while learning at a flexible rate. I wouldn’t say that it replaces a good old seminar about gender, but at the same time it’s objectives are very different.

      I’ve taken a few online classes in the past: some are great and others are terrible. Many factors come into play.

      Thanks for stopping by!


      1. angryscholar

        You’re very kind. I’m usually only angry when I’m doing scholar stuff. Or avoiding doing scholar stuff, as the case may be. Blogging counts as the latter, so it’s a win-win.


  3. lly1205

    I really wish I had known about this, it would have been amazing to join. That said I’m pretty jealous of you – was it hard to get in? Will you keep posting about what’s happening in the course?



    1. The Geek Anthropologist

      Hi Lily! The class was free to join and there was no selection of students as far as I can tell. The class was closed shortly after it began, probably simply in order to provide more stability in the groups. I will likely post again about the class, and you can certainly keep track of some of our progress by Twitter and Facebook. Feel free to interact with students to learn more about their experience as well. If I ever learn about another course opening, I’ll let the readers of this blog know!


      1. lly1205

        I see, I guess letting it grow endlessly would have been crazy! Where can I follow the progress on Facebook? And thanks, courses on things like this would definitely interest me 🙂



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