Two of Penn’s arts-and-culture-focused MOOCs start this month

Did you catch Trey Popp’s story about massive open online courses (MOOCs) in the March/April 2013 Gazette? It’s called “MOOC U.” and you can read it in full here.

While the story included a handy info box with Penn’s Coursera offerings, we wanted to let you know about two arts-and-culture-oriented MOOCs that both start later this month: Greek and Roman Mythology and Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society.

First, here’s the skinny on Greek and Roman Mythology — taught by Peter Struck, associate professor of classical studies and director of Benjamin Franklin Scholars — from the Coursera site:

Myths are traditional stories that have endured over a long time. Some of them have to do with events of great importance, such as the founding of a nation. Others tell the stories of great heroes and heroines and their exploits and courage in the face of adversity. Still others are simple tales about otherwise unremarkable people who get into trouble or do some great deed. What are we to make of all these tales, and why do people seem to like to hear them? This course will focus on the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, as a way of exploring the nature of myth and the function it plays for individuals, societies, and nations. We will also pay some attention to the way the Greeks and Romans themselves understood their own myths. Are myths subtle codes that contain some universal truth? Are they a window on the deep recesses of a particular culture? Are they a set of blinders that all of us wear, though we do not realize it? Or are they just entertaining stories that people like to tell over and over? This course will investigate these questions through a variety of topics, including the creation of the universe, the relationship between gods and mortals, human nature, religion, the family, sex, love, madness, and death.

Assigned readings will include Homer’s Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. As Struck told Trey Popp: “My bread-and-butter course has always been this mythology class” — and it sounds like a fun one to us. It starts in two weeks, on April 22, and you can sign up here.

Karl Ulrich, vice dean of innovation at Wharton and CIBC Professor of Entrepreneurship and e-Commerce, is teaching Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society starting April 29. Coursera lists it in the Information, Tech, and Design class category and says it will combine “fundamental concepts with hands-on design challenges to become a better designer.”

It’s meant for anyone who’s interested in designing something — regardless of what category that “something” may fall under — as noted in this extended description (emphasis ours):

This is a course aimed at making you a better designer. The course marries theory and practice, as both are valuable in improving design performance. Lectures and readings will lay out the fundamental concepts that underpin design as a human activity. Weekly design challenges test your ability to apply those ideas to solve real problems. The course is deliberately broad — spanning all domains of design, including architecture, graphics, services, apparel, engineered goods, and products. The emphasis of the course is the basic design process: define, explore, select, and refine. You, the student, bring to the course your particular interests and expertise related to, for instance, engineering, furniture, fashion, architecture, or products. In prior sessions of the course about half of the participants were novices and about half had prior professional design expertise. Both groups seem to benefit substantially from the course. All project work is evaluated by your peers — and indeed, you will also be a peer reviewer. This format allows you to see an interesting collection of projects while getting useful feedback on your own project.

Ulrich himself helped design this scooter, the TerraPass system and Gushers fruit snacks. He talks about those creations and his plans for the class in this introductory video:

Of course, if you do enroll in one of these Penn MOOCs, we’d love to hear about your experience!

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Filed under Faculty/Staff, Written Word

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