Well, that didn’t take long. Less than a week into the Coursera Fantasy & Science Fiction course, I dropped it like a cheating lover–with no regrets. At first, I was excited about the two readings released early, The Martian Chronicles and The Left Hand of Darkness, but the rest of the reading list disappointed me. Too much fantasy and not enough science fiction, and much of the list I had already encountered (or taught) in my own English courses.
As previously posted, I started The Martian Chronicles early and am about halfway through. I like it and can now look forward to finishing it on my own time, as well as Le Guin’s novel, and probably Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother.
I might have lasted through Frankenstein (I’ve taught that many times), The Island of Doctor Moreau, Dracula, and The Invisible Man, but most of the list just seemed remote to what I expected. One lesson I can see from this is that an advance reading list would help students make informed choices. The course was heavy into the 19th century and I definitely would have preferred a 20th century focus. Maybe I joined too soon, but I wanted to get in and get started. Instead I got in and got out.
The last straw for me, though, was the first reading, one I would cite as a very poor choice to engage students at the beginning of a course–Grimm’s Household Tales. Oh, brother. Talk about flat and dull. And must we have read all 400+ pages to get the gist of it, or was this work meant to weed us out? Well, it worked.
I understand that the course was meant for undergraduates and that I already have the PhD in English, but I really am interested in learning about new areas in a course setting, just not this one. Here’s the reading list (not necessarily in order) for the 10-week course, all of which I now own on my iPad, except for the two print books, which ironically are the ones I will be reading:
- Grimm’s Household Tales
- Wells’ The Star, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Doctor Moreau
- Shelley’s Frankenstein
- Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars
- Hawthorne’s Mosses from an Old Manse
- some Poe stories
- Stoker’s Dracula
- Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
- Gilman’s Herland
- Doctorow’s Little Brother
- Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (print)
- Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (print)
Hope I didn’t miss anything in the list. The discussion forums were optional, thankfully, because I cannot stand the chaos of MOOC discussions–too many people talking at once and all for themselves. The weekly writings had odd requirements, but clearly they would not be graded or maybe even read by the endowed professor. Writings were to be between 270-320 words, with no introductory material–just get to the point. No essay prompts or suggestions, we were just to write to enrich other readers, or something like that. For every writing you turned in (weekly), you graded four others. A decent amount of work with the heavy readings. The site itself is a typical LMS, no better or worse than the rest.
So, I’m out and reading on my own.