And I love it.
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