December 10, 2012

Materials for MOOCs


The hot buzzword in academia right now is MOOC, which stands for Massive Open Online Course. The syllabus, course material, and lectures are provided online, so there’s no need to physically attend class. And they’re free!

The MOOC isn’t necessarily a new idea — MIT OpenCourseWare and Kahn Academy have been providing popular online courses for years.  The breakthrough at the moment seems to be that MOOCs are going mainstream. Last year, a Stanford class on artificial intelligence taught by Sebastian Thurn drew enrollment of more then 175,000 people. And because of their popularity, there’s a growing debate in academia as institutions of higher learning are either joining the MOOC movement or questioning what free, online classes mean for the value, cost, and status of traditional learning at universities.

Will MOOCs revolutionize higher education? It’s hard to say. But one thing we do know is that you might want to stock up on some course materials for your MOOCs in English Literature and Writing. After browsing MOOC database CourseBuffet, I’ve selected some courses that I’d like to take, and I have included some suggested course books from the Melville House list.

James Joyce

This class offers a “detailed study of the life and historical and cultural contexts of the Irish short story writer and novelist James Joyce.” The class will do a close reading of the short stories in Dubliners, including The Dead. The Melville House edition of The Dead is a Hybrid Book, which means that the book includes a link to a download of primary material — letters, essays, and photographs related to the book.

 The Fiction of Relationship

This Brown class offered in June 2013 will explore two main questions: “What is the nature of our relationship to others and the world? How can literature help us see these relationships more clearly?” Required texts include Herman Melville’s novellas Bartleby the Scrivener and Benito Cereno, available as Hybrid Books.

Medieval Women

Supplementary reading for this class on Medieval women could be The Burning Time, a novel based on the true story of the first witchcraft trial in Ireland.

The Victorian Novel

An “examination of the historical and cultural contexts of The English Victorian novel” would not be complete without Thomas Hardy’s The Distracted Preacher (a Hybrid Book) and the forthcoming Elizabeth Gaskell novella The Poor Clare, which will be available from Melville House next summer.

English Composition II

This course seems focused on helping students improve their academic writing, but if anyone feels inspired to write some short stories, Melville House publishes The Lonely Voice, Frank O’Connor’s study of the short story.




Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.