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With about twenty-four hours until the MOOC goes live, enrollment in “Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction” stands at just around 15,000, with more streaming in by the hour. I have been in contact with over a thousand of these students via Twitter (#hfmooc, #hisfiction), Facebook (the “Plagues, Witches, and War” student page), and this blog. They come from all over the world: Brazil, South Africa, Ecuador, China, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Russia, Spain, Senegal, Canada, Colombia, and thousands of towns, cities, and rural areas around the United States. If you’re reading this and would like to sign up for the class, you may do so by going here. Enrollment will be open up until the last couple weeks of the class, so if this is an especially busy time for you it’s still possible to complete the class even if you can’t give it too much attention until sometime in November.
As I noted on several earlier posts about the MOOC (see here and here), one of the class’s features will be a series of five seminars with visiting writers, who will follow up their visits to my class with extended exchanges with Coursera students on the forums (with several of them also taking questions on Twitter). Two of these authors—Jane Alison (discussing The Love-Artist) and Katherine Howe (discussing The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane)—have already visited my on-grounds seminar on historical fiction. This is probably the best group of undergraduates I’ve ever had, and the authors have delighted our two visitors so far with engaging and challenging exchanges on the nature, rigors, and craft of historical fiction. These have been long and substantive discussions, worth viewing in full, but I thought I would post a few snippets as a preview so that enrolled and prospective students can get a glimpse of what they’ll be seeing once the video content for these weeks is posted. The next visitor is Geraldine Brooks, followed by Mary Beth Keane and Yangsze Choo.
The last few weeks have felt like a marathon, with all the work entailed in putting one of these courses together: writing and revising lectures, planning assignments, typing up and formatting slides, shooting videos (all with multiple takes), getting releases signed by visitors and students, consulting with University Counsel, preparing video and audio patches, dealing with the intricacies of the Coursera interface, and moving everything through post-production with the help of an extraordinary team. It’s been an exhilarating experience, and while there have been some last-minute glitches (and there will surely be others), “Plagues, Witches, and War” is ready for launch.
Those enrolled in the class will receive an e-mail around 8:00 Eastern Standard Time tomorrow morning (Tuesday, October 15) letting them know the course page is live and directing them to the home page. Until then, enjoy!