Designing an online humanities course

A relatively new course at my university is Introduction to Humanities, and it’s proving pretty popular, perhaps because it has no prerequisites and fulfills a core curriculum / general education requirement. Because the Dean of the College asked that all core classes be approved for online delivery, I have been working on building a complete, 15-week syllabus centered on fairy tales, one of my research specialties. We will look at different versions of several tales, from a variety of cultures, alongside illustrations, songs, ballets, cartoons, and films.

Illustration of "Sleeping Beauty" by Jennie Harbour

Illustration of “Sleeping Beauty” by Jennie Harbour

So far, I’m taking advantage of the online environment in some of the following ways:

I’m also trying to mix structure with choice. The course starts with five sequential weeks focused on a handful of folklore theories (Propp’s 31 functions and Jung’s archetypes), writing about illustrations, and setting up compare-contrast analyses. Students will get used to reading short selections, watching video clips, and participating in online discussion forums as they work up to their first major graded assignment.

Once I post the first essay grade, students will gain access to three modules that they can do in any order; one must be completed every three weeks, however. Modules introduce additional cultural and ethical analysis, in keeping with student learning outcomes for this particular area of the core curriculum, and students will write a paper or create a presentation for the module’s big assessment. For example, the ethical analysis module explores Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and the Brothers Grimm version of “The Brave Little Tailor,” particularly

I am planning to make the final exam available from day one, since students will be writing an original fairy tale with an accompanying explanation of their inspirations, the Propp functions and Jungian archetypes consciously used, etc.

Given that the class has no prerequisites and therefore is likely to have a high proportion of freshmen, I hope that this approach can ease the transition into online learning!

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