Copyright Student Diary: Online Course Content

Our Student Diary series continues with Sarah's discussion of Week 7 of coursework. This week, she's taking a closer look at how develops their course material.

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By Sarah Wright

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Checking in With

After reading my comments on article quality in Week 6, the good folks at got in touch with my editors here at to let me know a little more about how they develop their courses. Each course is developed by 'credentialed, college-level instructors' and is peer-reviewed by professors. Those who have looked at's courses will know that there's a completion percentage listed with each course - many courses are available, even though their content isn't entirely fleshed out. It's actually partially because it was listed as 100% complete that I opted to take the Shakespeare course.

That's not to say that these courses are put together in a slapdash manner. takes pride in developing its course content, as outlined in three blog posts written about the subject. It's refreshing to see how transparent they are about their process. One thing I learned in reading these posts that relates to my critique in Week 4 is that these courses are designed to land somewhere between community college and Ivy League in terms of course content. They aren't supposed to be the most rigorous stuff on the planet, though quality does seem to be the first watchword.

That's Online Learning

This is a function of the medium that I'm more than happy to accept. It's a situation where the proverbial 'looking a gift horse in the mouth' comes into play. These are totally free, easy-to-access educational modules. I can nitpick here and there, but ultimately, this course is helping to guide me through a learning process that I'd be very unlikely to develop and take entirely on my own. Even if I was independently inspired to read a bunch of Shakespeare's work, it's unlikely that I'd have the time and resources to know exactly where to look for free, easily accessible supplemental essays and materials. It's an impressive resource, one of those things that can make you marvel at the benefits of technological advances.

Back to the Program

I actually did quite a bit of reading this week, blasting me through to the end of unit 3. I can't say I'm sad to be done with tragedy, though I know that heavy stuff is on the horizon (this being a Shakespeare class, that's not an unreasonable assumption; the guy kind of has a flair for the dramatic). Macbeth is, in my estimation, a particularly bloody play. I realize that that's kind of a 'duh, it's a Shakespearean tragedy' thing to say, but I was really uncomfortable reading this play. It's got a really dark and heavy mood right from the beginning. That's not to say that Hamlet wasn't also dark, but there's something about that particular play that allowed me to detach myself emotionally. I read almost all of Macbeth in one sitting, and I felt nauseated and generally unsettled when I finished.

I guess that's too bad, because I see that unit 4 is focused on historical tragedies. The first play on the docket is Richard III, which I've never read, but have seen on film. Ian McKellan, otherwise known as Gandalf, starred in the film version I saw, and it's not exactly what one might call a 'popcorn movie.' There's yet more darkness on the horizon in this class. I don't want to make it sounds like I'm dreading it - quite the opposite. I may be made uncomfortable by these plays, but that's just further testament to the lasting power of creative work that's centuries old.

Read more about the experience of taking a self-guided online class with last week's diary.

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