Arts One bannerThere’s been a lot of talk about so-called Massive Online Open Courses. According to the New York Times, 2012 was the year of the MOOC. Come 2013, some of the enthusiasm has died down a little, as people realize it may not be easy to make money out of these things. And there are plenty who are (rightly) critical of all the hoopla in the first place.

Anyhow, in the meantime here at UBC we’ve been putting together something like a MOOC that doesn’t depend upon Coursera or any other of the for-profit enterprises that are looking to capitalize upon the conjunction of education and the Internet. We’re constructing a DIY MOOC that piggy-banks upon an existing first-year course, Arts One.

Arts One is essentially a course in the Western Humanities: it covers “great books” from Genesis to Cormac McCarthy. This vast panorama is given focus by the choice of specific themes (currently, “Monster in the Mirror” and “Explorations and Encounters”) that change every couple of years.

The idea of the online version, Arts One Digital, is that people can follow along with the program as it is taught at UBC, or they can construct their own syllabus, using the ever-growing range of lectures and material that we are making available online. There are also a number of options for interactivity: Twitter conversations and hashtags, and the option to syndicate blog posts and comments.

We’ll be building this over the semester, so watch this space. Any feedback or suggestions would be most welcome at any time.


Here is my contribution to a recent workshop on “Beyond Walls: Teaching and Learning in the Open.” This was part of UBC’s Open Access week.

I start from a brief discussion of my Wikipedia project from a few years ago, Murder, Madness, and Mayhem. I go on, however, to a more general discussion of the role of the university at a time when there is both increasing production of the common and ever new attempts to construct new enclosures that would restrict and commodify our common knowledge and intellect.

In particular, I talk about the possibilities for a program I’m teaching on at the moment, Arts One. More on this soon…