Registration open for spring MOOCs: Free online learning with Yale experts

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Yale launches its 2015 slate of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) at Yale with three new classes on politics, music, and the law, which begin Monday, Jan. 12. Registration is now open for these free courses, available to students around the world through the university’s Coursera platform.

Additional classes will be open for registration in the coming weeks.

The spring semester offerings include “Moral Foundations of Politics” with Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science and the Henry R. Luce Director of the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale; “Introduction to Classical Music” with Craig Wright, the Henry L. and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Music; and “America’s Unwritten Constitution” with Akhil Amar, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science.

Each year, Yale’s free MOOCs attract tens of thousands of visitors the world over, providing access to a university education that some may not otherwise get due to geography, age, or opportunity. On average, 67% of the students in Yale MOOCs hail from outside of the United States, the majority of whom come from developing economies like India, China, and Brazil. 

While participants do not earn Yale credit for MOOCs, sponsoring faculty members offer their courses through the Verified Certificate track (for a $49 fee). Students choosing that option can — if they successfully complete the course — have their participation and completion verified for prospective employers and others.

Yale’s foray into online education began with Open Yale Courses (OYC) in 2007. Since launching the MOOCs a year ago, the level of engagement has steadily increased, according to the Office of Digital Dissemination and Online Education (ODDOE). Robert Shiller, Sterling Professor of Economics and Nobel laureate, taught a MOOC on financial markets both last spring and fall semesters. His second session had 56,295 enrolled learners.

“What’s even more intriguing is the fact that about 75% of those who enrolled showed some level of engagement with the course material, whether through watching the video lectures, submitting assignments, or browsing around the course materials and discussion forums,” says Melissa Thomas, project coordinator at the ODDOE.

According to Thomas, Yale’s online course offerings demonstrate the high production values and qualities distinct to Yale offerings, with a different pedagogical approach. The online classes include lectures, assignments, exams, online discussion groups, and online office hours with faculty and teaching assistants, as well as interactive features and tools for assessment.

“Moral Foundations of Politics” will provide a survey of major political theories of the Enlightenment — Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition — through classical formulations, historical context, and contemporary debates relating to politics today. It then turns to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking, and, lastly, explores the nature of democratic politics and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking.

“Of all the courses I teach at Yale, ‘Moral Foundations of Politics’ is my favorite because it deals with the most fundamental aspects of politics in a way that is accessible to newcomers,” said Shapiro.

“Introduction to Classical Music” will use a simple teaching style that introduces the novice listener to the wonders of classical music from Bach fugues to Mozart symphonies to Puccini operas. Wright guides students through Western musical history, visiting virtually the people who created it and the places where they did so. Wright says that by the end of the class, he hopes “that all students will become more human (enriched in personality) and have a rollicking good time!”

“America’s Unwritten Constitution” is being offered as the second of two new stand-alone courses from Amar. Although the first course was completed in December 2014, students should note that it is not a prerequisite to the current offering. “America’s Unwritten Constitution” takes the next step, going beyond the text of the Constitution to ask questions such as: What are the ground rules for proper constitutional interpretation? Who decides what the text means? How does the written constitution interact with unwritten sources of constitutional authority, such as judicial decisions, presidential proclamations, landmark statutes, and widespread popular understandings?

The 2015 MOOCs join a catalogue of four other courses taught last year, including Shiller’s class, “Financial Markets”; Amar’s first “America’s Unwritten Constitution” class; “Roman Architecture,” with Diana E.E. Kleiner, the Dunham Professor of History of Art and Classics; and “Moralities of Everyday Life,” with Paul Bloom, the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science.

To learn more about each course and enroll in either the free track or in the Verified Certificate program, visit Yale’s homepage on Coursera.

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