Sunday, September 17, 2017

Maxi the MOOCher

"Theorizing Religion" has entered its MOOC experiment, which means that the instructor is trying to make his way through all five Harvard "Traditions and Scriptures" modules at once. (I admit it: I skim a little.) So far it's eye-opening, teaching me lots of interesting things and angles on things. It's fascinating to approach the Q'uran first as an experience of transportingly beautiful sound, for instance, recited in carefully structured ways: tears are appropriate in reciter and listener, for instance, and one style requires improvisation. I appreciate the pedagogical work of the instructors, and their efforts to work within the constraints of a MOOC. (Since the courses are no longer live, one can't participate but is able see the discussions of the students who participated - differently self-selecting populations for different traditions, as one would expect, though likely none of these happy Andeans giggling as students in the Christianity course are asked to introduce themselves with a photo.) MOOCs have to provide all their teaching materials, so I'm accessing troves of pdfs, websites, videos, ranging from the very scholarly to popular music. My only complaint so far regards the "X in brief" videos produced as opening overviews for each tradition, evidently without consulting the course instructors. Besides questionable editing decisions (like including Persian miniatures of scenes from the Prophet's life, but with the face blurred) they include some misleading things, like this slime-like - and historically meaningless - representation of the global spread of Buddhism.

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