Just How Many History MOOCs are Being Offered Now, Anyway?

tags: MOOCs, David Austin Walsh, online education, Coursera, edX



David Austin Walsh is the editor of the History News Network. Follow him on Twitter @DavidAstinWalsh.

Though many historians are nervous about the potential massive disruption in higher education due to the proliferation of massive online education courses, only a handful of MOOCs are actually dedicated to history.

Of four of the largest MOOC providers survey -- Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Semester Online -- only eight history courses actually taught by history faculty are being offered.

Popular MOOC provider Coursera only has two dedicated history courses taught by historians open for registration as of June 9, though at least one additional class is in development.

EdX, the non-profit MOOC established by Harvard and MIT, also offers eight history classes, but most have a classics or literature focus and are taught by professors from classics, English, or area studies departments.

Udacity does not offer history or traditional humanities courses at all, focusing instead on STEM and social science courses.

The free history MOOCs available for registration (edX courses with an explicit literary or anthropological focus have been excluded, as have courses currently in progress or in development):

  • A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari, history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The course starts July 7 and goes for twenty weeks. Through Coursera.
  • A History of the World since 1300” by Jeremy Adelman, Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professor of Spanish Civilization and Culture at Princeton University. The course starts September 15 and goes for twelve weeks. Through Coursera.
  • Ideas of the Twentieth Century” by Daniel Bonevac and Roy Flukinger. Bonevac is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, and Flukinger is Senior Research Curator of the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin. The course starts September 15 and goes for thirteen weeks. Through edX.
  • A Global History of Architecture: Part 1” by Mark Jarzombek and Vikram Prakāsh. Jarzombek is prfoessor of the history and theory of architecture at MIT, and Prakāsh is an historian who teaches at the University of Washington in Seattle. The course starts September 17 and runs for thirteen weeks. Through edX.
  • China,” by Peter K. Bol and William C. Kirby. Bol is Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, and Kirby is T.M. Chang Professor of China Studies and Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University. The course starts in October. Through edX.
  • Was Alexander Great? The Life, Leadership, and Legacies of History’s Greatest Warrior by Guy MacLean Rogers, Mildred Lane Kemper Professor of Classics and History at Wellesley College. The course starts January 27, 2014. Through edX.
  • Other providers offer online courses for credit to participating schools through the Semester Online consortium (Boston College, Emory, Northwestern, Washington University in St. Louis, Notre Dame, UNC Chapel Hill; Duke University famously withdrew from the consortium after faculty protest in late April):

  • Vietnam: America’s War at Home and Abroad by Seth Jacobs, a political and cultural historian at Boston College. The course starts August 27, 2013 and runs through December 11. Through Semester Online.
  • History of Religions in America by Gary Laderman, Professor of American Religious History and Cultures at Emory University. The course starts August 27, 2013 and runs through December 12. Through Semester Online.
  • Despite the relative paucity of history offerings, the entire MOOC concept is still very much in its formative stages. John McNeill, professor of history at Georgetown University and vice-president for research at the American Historical Association, acknowledged as much in a March 2013 column in AHA Perspectives. Colleges and universities across America are assembling committees to develop MOOC strategies, and McNeill acknowledged that the proliferation of history MOOCs is more or less inevitable.


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