Yesterday I wrapped up my work for the “Shakespeare in Community” MOOC on Coursera. The massive open online course lasted four weeks, focusing on one Shakespeare play per week. The course was taught through videos, forums, an interactive Facebook group and a Twitter discussion hashtag (#moocspeare). Shakespeare in community caught my eye because I love both Shakespeare (brit lit really) and social media and was excited to see how the two could meld together. Headed by Jesse Stommel of the University of Wisconson-Madison, the community aspect did not disappoint. The faculty of the course encouraged wordles, tweets, blog posts, YouTube videos and all sorts of user-generated social media content to keep the course in action.
— Adelyn Biedenbach (@adelynlee) May 3, 2015
I studied Shakespeare in college and high school, but never quite like this. It’s no secret that I’m some one who lives for digital/social media and online community building. As a brand or organization, attempts to get your consumers or fans to create user generated content can sometimes fail or require a lot of explanation and effort. This course was able to reach more than 37,583 accounts on Twitter with 89,108 impressions (via TweetReach). The @HackShakespeare handle on Twitter,which served as an instructor and content source tweeted 108 times about the four-week course and gained 858 followers. The active Facebook group had new discussions posted everyday and currently sits at 1,181 active members. And that’s all just the social media part of the course, all external from the videos on YouTube and the forums on Coursera.
All of this makes a pretty good argument for this type of learning. This type of social media interaction for coursework and online distance learning is a great base and the reach of this four week course is impressive. Check out more on the course and it’s intention and reach from Jesse Stommel in “The Course Hath No Bottom: the 20,000 person seminar.”
My personal experience in the course was awesome. I was able to re-read two plays that I read years ago and read two new ones for the first time. My life can be pretty busy when work is in-season and this course came at the perfect time for me to take a little brain break and focus on the literature and the University of Wisconsin- Madison was able to build an active online community in such a short period of time.
When I first moved to Florida, my best friend back home knew that I liked Shakespeare. She sent me a picture that read: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” I knew that it was from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but having never read the play, I didn’t know the context. In this course, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was my favorite play that the community read and explored. I learned a lot about a picture that had been hanging in my house but also about the fantastical elements of that play.
Two of the questions that the course asks students to explore in the final reflection are ‘Why do we need Shakespeare ?’ and ‘Why do we need the humanities?’ I think my answer to that is, we need the humanities to learn about ourselves. They help us to live an examined life and see the world around us. I’m not sure that we NEED Shakespeare, but his works seem to be the absolute best fit for the study of humanities. All of his plays hold relatable for the past, present and future and help paint a portrait of human nature. Interestingly enough, I think this course was particularly special because it helped the study of human nature, as Shakespeare is intended to do, but also showed the behavior of modern humanity. Social Media, digital media and online communities are a staple of 2015 living in the USA. Shakespeare yet again shows that his content is translatable for every generation into tweets, YouTube clips and more.
” If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.” (V, i. 440-455)