I wanted to mention two courses that have started this week. Both are at the online learning platform FutureLearn which I find easy and enjoyable to use (for online learning, the technology has to be good, don’t you think?) and both are from Newcastle University in Australia.
The first is Fairy Tales: Meanings, Messages, and Morals, described as a course that will help you to “Build your skills in literary analysis and creative writing by exploring the meaning of fairy tales.” I’m not sure what prompted me to sign up for this because I’ve shied away from fairy tales and re-workings of fairy tales – at one time they seemed to be everywhere – although I loved reading Angela Carter’s reworkings of these traditional stories when I was studying for my English degree, a long time ago. Anyway, the course is interesting and fun, and features a lecturer dressed in a long red hooded cape! So far, I’ve read and compared two versions of the Little Red Riding Hood story – one by Charles Perrault and one by the Brothers Grimm. Of course, fairy tales are deeply entrenched in Western literature and one of the pleasures of this course is interacting with students from all over the world, who are sharing their versions of similar tales.
The second course I’ve signed up for is European Empires: An Introduction. This course is in the Politics and History category at FutureLearn and the course blurb says that studying this class will help you to “Gain new insights into European history and discover the major events that shaped Europe.”
I’m finding the European course more challenging than the Fairy Tales because I haven’t studied History since ‘O’ level (yes, I’m old). But it’s good to be challenged and the course seems to be successful at squeezing a lot of information into a short space. I was pleased that lecturers prepare students to consider colonialism from the perspective of all peoples, not just the European perspective. Students can work at their own level and pace but the materials are only available until the end of August unless you pay for continued access and, as in much learning, you get more out of the course if you engage with other learners a bit, perhaps striking up exchanges with those students who seem to have something interesting to say! I would say that the Fairy Tale students are more chatty than the History students, so far.
Two more courses on my radar, these both start in September, are William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place (offered by Lancaster University – here’s the blurb “Explore the influence of the Lake District on Wordsworth with this free online course, filmed at his home, Dove Cottage, Grasmere.”) and An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: Accents, Attitudes and Identity (offered by University of York – “Learn how sociolinguists explore the relationship between language and the expression of personal, social and cultural identity.)
Have you signed up for these or any other courses? Any recommendations? I suspect my online learning is yet another form of procrastination (from my creative writing) but it’s an enjoyable one and feels less time-wasting than scrolling through Twitter 🙂