The new fall television season gets under way this week, and newspapers are full of roundups of the hottest new shows. It’s also the season for a new lineup of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, and in recent days several colleges have touted new offerings boasting star professors or popular subject matter.
Despite a host of questions about the staying power of MOOCs as a trend, more free megacourses are starting this month than ever before, with 328 new offerings, according to Class Central, a MOOC guide.
Among the biggest-name professors taking to MOOCs this fall are Eric Foner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, and Robert Pinsky, a former poet laureate of the United States. And it’s a season of firsts, including the first MOOC offered by a historically black college.
Following are a few notable new free online courses. Please share others we may have missed in the comments section.
Course Title: “The Art of Poetry”
Instructors: Robert Pinsky, a professor of English and creative writing at Boston University, and six other professors and students at the university
Start Date: September 30
What’s Notable: The course aims to teach appreciation rather than provide a traditional survey. “This course is based on the conviction that the more you know about an art, the more pleasure you will find in it,” Mr. Pinsky says.
Course Title: “Chinese for Beginners”
Instructor: Xiaoyu Liu, a vice professor at Peking University’s School of Chinese as a Second Language
Start Date: Self-paced
What’s Notable: This may be the first MOOC to teach introductory Chinese, and “there was a lot of demand” for the subject, says Nikki Garcia, a spokeswoman for Coursera.
Course Title: “The Civil War and Reconstruction: A House Divided: The Road to Civil War, 1850-1861" (first course of a three-part sequence)
Instructor: Eric Foner, a professor of history at Columbia University
Start date: September 17
What’s Notable: Mr. Foner is a rock star in his field, having served as president of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the Society of American Historians. He is also known as a public intellectual, and his most recent book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2011. This MOOC will be followed by “A New Birth of Freedom: The Civil War, 1861-1865,” starting in December, and “The Unfinished Revolution: Reconstruction and After, 1865-1890,” starting in February.
Course Title: “Understanding World Religions: An Occupational Approach”
Instructor: Keith Augustus Burton, an associate professor of religion at Oakwood University
Start Date: October 27
Platform: Canvas Network
What’s Notable: The Alabama university says this is the first MOOC to be offered by a historically black college. In a news release, organizers explain why that is important: “Many have hailed MOOCs as an affordable alternative to traditional higher-education studies, but these courses have been viewed largely as educational experiments and luxuries with little relevance to students served by a majority of HBCUs.”