Home Editor's Pick MOOC on International Politics in this World & Beyond: Wizards, Fiction & Political Fact in a Global Age
MOOC on International Politics in this World & Beyond: Wizards, Fiction & Political Fact in a Global Age

MOOC on International Politics in this World & Beyond: Wizards, Fiction & Political Fact in a Global Age

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mooc-2014-06-06What exactly is a MOOC? When I first heard the phrase, I immediately thought it was the sound that a sick cow made. Then I looked it up and found it stood for Massive Open Online Course. Having discovered it to be a term used in education (not farming), my interest in MOOCs peaked.

MOOCs are becoming increasingly popular. Their popularity was defined in 2012 when The New York Times declared that year to be The Year of the MOOC in its Education Section.

The MOOC concept is relatively new. The idea is to cater to everybody, anywhere, anytime–unlimited participation via the Internet. When you throw in the fee (zero dollars and zero cents), MOOCs become even more enticing.

MOOCs are easily accessible and are a great way to complement your current degree program or to just learn for free. If the MOOC is aligned with your current university curriculum, then you may even get institutional credit, depending on the course of study involved. One such MOOC just happens to be available June 23–and looks like a lot of fun–so I’m taking it.

I’m already a student at American Public University (APU), and when I saw that they were offering an 8-week MOOC entitled “International Politics in this World and Beyond: Wizards, Fiction and Political Fact in a Global Age” there was one word that made me sign up: Wizards.

The “wizards” in play are from the world of Harry Potter. People who are not familiar with J.K. Rowling’s popular fantasy novels often assume that the series is for children. That is marginally true, but anybody who has read all seven books will argue that the novels are actually a work of genius with numerous parallels to the real world–particularly when it comes to the key elements in APU’s MOOC such as climate change, discrimination, nationalism and socialism.

The Harry Potter books are some of the most popular fantasy fiction novels of all time. However, for this MOOC, they throw in two more fantasy staples for good measure. The MOOC examines not only the Harry Potter books, but also J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga, and the universe of George Lucas’ Star Wars. You will study each of these fantastic fictional worlds for their links to real-world international politics. Do I have your attention yet?

The MOOC’s current curriculum description poses some questions that I’ve often pondered myself:

  • How, for instance, does Hogwarts House rivalry help us better understand and theorize the dynamics of conflicting national, cultural, ethnic or ideological identities today?
  • How does the Eye of Sauron highlight some of the deeper problems with state surveillance strategies?
  • What do contemporary Corporate Death Stars look like–and do we stand a fighting chance against them?
  • And how can the study of Rowling’s “boggarts” further our understanding of terrorism and state counterterror policies?

MOOCs are here to stay. They won’t take over the universe like some kind of educational Darth Vader or Voldemort, but they will become an important element in the world’s educational infrastructure. So, get out your wand, sword or light saber and look into “International Politics in this World and Beyond: Wizards, Fiction and Political Fact in a Global Age”, offered up by APU with classes beginning June 23.

NOTE: Muggles only please.

By Glynn Cosker
Online Learning Tips Contributor

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