Wellesley’s First Four MOOCs Span STEM, History, Sociology, and Shakespeare

May 21, 2013

Wellesley today announced the first four courses it will offer on the WellesleyX platform. The first course, Introduction to Human Evolution, begins in September. The additional courses, which will be offered in 2014, include: Was Alexander Great? The Life, Leadership, and Legacies of History’s Greatest Warrior (Spring 2014); Introduction to Global Sociology (Fall 2014); and Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance (Fall 2014). Registration for all four courses is now open.

The initial WellesleyX offerings represent some of the most popular courses taught at Wellesley. These classes also represent Wellesley’s breadth of disciplines, from a virtual lab-based course on human evolution to an introduction to Shakespeare that combines literary study with theatrical analysis. All courses will be open at no cost to anyone with an Internet connection, regardless of gender or geography.

“The strength of Wellesley’s faculty and curriculum is reflected in these initial courses,” said Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly. “Wellesley looks forward to contributing to, and helping to shape the conversation about the role of online education, especially in promoting the liberal arts.”

Introduction to Human Evolution kicks off in September 2013 and will be taught by Adam Van Arsdale, assistant professor of anthropology. The course syllabus is in development but potential plans include virtual guided trips to important archeological dig sites and an interactive primer on how scientists measure skeletal remains.

According to Ravi Ravishanker, the College’s chief information officer and associate dean of WellesleyX, faculty at the College are eagerly exploring ways to experiment with MOOC technology to enhance classroom teaching—as well as ways that WellesleyX courses might advance the learning opportunities offered by MOOCs to date.

“The possibilities are endless and exciting; the challenge is to harmonize the capabilities of the new technology with the academic rigor that is at Wellesley’s core,” said Ravishanker. “Connecting learners to field experts from all over the world, as well as virtual face-to-face discussions, are just some ways in which our faculty are thinking about enhancing WellesleyX courses. In addition, our faculty members are eager to learn and experiment with some of edX’s advanced assessment tools, which, through interactivity and instant feedback, can become even more powerful additions to the learning process.”

For example, Van Arsdale will teach the traditional version of the Introduction to Human Evolution course (Hominid Evolution) to about 20 Wellesley on-campus students during the Fall semester while the MOOC version of the class will begin a few weeks later. This concurrent MOOC/brick-and-mortar teaching model will provide the opportunity for Wellesley students to interact with the anticipated thousands of online learners, and vice versa, which College officials hope will lead to rich discussions that defy the traditional boundaries of the campus classroom. EdX will record actual classroom discussions, enabling MOOC participants to get a rare glimpse at the liberal arts learning experience that takes place on campus.

Last December, Wellesley became the first liberal arts college to join edX, the leader in high quality online learning founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). For more information, please read the College's course announcement press release.

WellesleyX Courses

Introduction to Human Evolution taught by Adam Van Arsdale, assistant professor of anthropology, begins September 2013.

Was Alexander Great? The Life, Leadership, and Legacies of History’s Greatest Warrior taught by Guy MacLean Rogers, Mildred Lane Kemper Professor of Classics and History, begins January 2014.

Introduction to Global Sociology taught by Smitha Radhakrishnan, assistant professor of sociology, begins October 2014.

Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance taught by Yu Jin Ko, professor of English, in collaboration with Diego Arciniegas, senior lecturer in theatre studies, begins October 2014.

Learn more about WellesleyX.