> AI12.1x, HarvardX
How can you do better than a course about the work of 17th-century New England poets, such as Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor, from the place where many of them went to college? Literature professor Elisa New uses original manuscripts from Harvard’s massive library collections, plus video of where the poets once lived and wrote and students “singing” verses from pews in the university’s Memorial Church. This is the first of a series of online courses canvassing 400 years of poetry in America, starting where American poetry did. Next taught in October. (And then you can move on to the next in the series: Walt Whitman, starting in November.)
This exceptionally practical course had a waiting list for its first six-week formal graded version (held this summer), which included discussion sessions and had a capacity of 1,000. But the lessons and materials, including eminently entertaining videos, are available online for anyone to learn from (at umass.edu/journalism/mooc/about.html). The course has attracted students from 48 countries, from UMass freshmen to a woman in her 80s, who are building everything from personal portfolios to a website about sled-dog racing. Available online; graded version next taught in spring 2014.
3 WORTH PAYING FOR
Contrary to the public image, some online courses cost as much as a conventional university class. Also largely unknown? Many put a limit on student enrollment — especially when there’s lots of personal interaction with teachers. Look what your money can get you.
> BMP-120, Berklee College of Music
Want to learn to play guitar? Want to learn from internationally known jazz guitarist and assistant chair of the Berklee guitar department Rick Peckham and his colleagues? In the comfort of your own home? With personalized feedback on your weekly assignments? That’s why online education rocks. (And when you’re finished with this, you can advance to Steve Vai Guitar Techniques, with the Grammy winner who has sold more than 15 million records and backed Frank Zappa, or Gary Burton: Jazz Improvisation, with the man Pat Metheny calls one of the greatest living jazz improvisers.) Next taught September 30, $1,200-$1,400, plus fees.
> COMP 0010A, Tufts University
After covering the basic principles of computer science, artificial intelligence, software code, and robot construction, students build their own robots at home using a robotics tool set loaned out by the university. They then photograph and take video of their little bots in action to post online and share with classmates. Next taught in 2014 at tufts.edu, but worth the wait. This year’s cost was $2,265 plus registration fee and some materials.
> MET EN240 OL, Boston University Metropolitan College
Poetry, according to former US poet laureate Robert Pinsky, is meant to be heard. After all, he says, you wouldn’t read the score “and never listen to the music.” This course uses Pinsky’s Favorite Poems Project — in which 18,000 Americans volunteered their most cherished poems — to explore how a reader’s voice creates a unique understanding of poetry. Next taught in the summer of 2014; 2013 cost was $2,580. Find more details at bu.edu.
Unless otherwise noted, courses can be found at edx.org, the website of the online education initiative founded by Harvard and MIT that now includes courses by Georgetown, Cornell, and many more.
Jon Marcus is a frequent Globe Magazine contributor. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.