- 2 reviews
- 2 completed
I'm in the final week of the course, and will earn a certificate of accomplishment. Overall, I've learned from the combination of Rabkin's lectures, the reading, and the requirement to write brief (320 word) essays. Each week Rabkin assigns a full book to read, along with the required essay (8 of 10 required for a statement of accomplishment), and 5 peer reviews (30-150 words on form and content for each essay). The video lectures (about 90 minutes of listening time, which can be reduced by speeding up playback) are topical and engaging, though a few contain factual errors about the stories. Unlike some professors (Al Fireis in Modern & Contemporary American Poetry), Rabkin shows no desire to interact with students, never participates in forum discussion, has no live webinars, and hasn't updated his lectures for a few years. However, if you want to approach fantasy and science fiction on a deeper level, his lectures will show you new insights into the work, and if you apply that level of reading to your own essays, you will gain a lot more from your reading. Peer reviews are, as expected from Coursera, a very mixed bag. They're rarely that insightful, in my experience. The essays you're required to grade are often poorly written, cobbled together work, frequently from students for whom English is a second or third language. While it's admirable that they're attempting the work, the time required to puzzle through the writing and the lack of insights most give to the reading, made peer review grading (for me) the absolutely biggest time waster and useless part of the course. One of the biggest negative surprises for me (and many others, based on forums postings) was the grading "scheme" for essays. There is a 3 point scale for form and content. Rabkin, the professor, states that a score of "2" on form and content means "successful" and that the essay is "smoothly written." But we all learned this week - at the END of the course - that awarding a "2" in the class's scoring scheme actually was the equivalent of a "D" - because a "2" in form and "2" in content gave you a "4" for the essay, or a 66% (a "D"). Most students in the class got scores below 80% because of the instructions in how to score. And despite emails to the professor during and after the class, he never responded. TA's that participated in the class stated that they had never had any contact with the professor. SO ... take it if you want to push yourself to read science fiction literature, and if you can learn from lectures and apply those to your own writing, but don't expect valuable peer feedback in general, and know that the scoring will give you a high likelihood of a low Coursera grade. On the plus side, no one in the entire market economy is going to give you a job or fire you because of a Coursera score.
I enjoyed Dr. Stephanie McCurry's lectures, which included screen shots of maps, paintings, and photographs nicely woven in to add interest to a particular week's lectures. The readings were appropriate and supported the course work. It was a good class that explored elements of US Civil War history that are often not covered in basic US History survey courses. I am pretty familiar with the war, but most of my reading has been focused either on Lincoln or battles, so the larger perspective of how slavery impacted the country (and the lives of the slaves themselves) was a worthwhile new perspective. I found the least satisfying part of the class to be the essays and evaluations. I thought the essay topics were pretty lightweight and mostly designed to make sure students read the work. Most frustrating (for me) were the peer reviews. Each week you had to review the work of 4 other students, answering 3 questions about their work, and your review was required to be a minimum of 150 words per essay. That's a lot of writing, and some students only turned in a few words or were blowing off a class, but you were still stuck writing a "review." Also, given the open nature of the MOOC, the quality of the reviews you receive on your own work is VERY mixed (and there were endless discussion board postings complaining about the reviews). But if you're interested in the topic, it's worth signing up for the lectures and to dabble in the essays (particularly if you're not concerned over getting a certificate). I'd like to see the professor take a more adventurous approach to the lectures, because although they DO incorporate good information, it's entirely the single professor staring into a camera and lecturing. (In contrast, Al Fireis of ModPo provides group discussions with students, live webinars, etc. and really pushes the online medium further). Overall, a good first effort on the professor's part.