Students who enroll in most Harvard courses this spring will turn in assignments that will be viewed by just one or two instructors. But the students who take Chinese History 185 will produce work that will be used by thousands of online learners across the globe.
Chinese History 185: “Creating ChinaX—Teaching China’s History Online” is a new Harvard class devoted to developing modules for ChinaX, an online class to be offered next fall through edX, the free not-for-profit online learning venture started by Harvard and MIT last May. ChinaX—which will be offered online through HarvardX, Harvard’s subset of the larger initiative—will delve into Chinese history and culture stretching from the 6th to the 18th century.
On Wednesday, roughly 30 shoppers filed into a mortar-and-bricks Harvard classroom for the first Chinese History 185 class of the semester. Speaking to his prospective students, course head Peter K. Bol advertised the first-of-its-kind Harvard course as an opportunity for the students to creatively collaborate.
“Together, you possess more knowledge than any of you do alone,” Bol, a professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, told the crowd of College students, graduate students, and visiting scholars in the room.
For the next month, the students who enroll in Chinese History 185 will study an overview of China’s history through a curriculum that is a condensed version of Societies of the World 12: “China: Traditions and Transformations,” another course taught by Bol.
Students will then choose module topics and then work in teams to design maps and illustrations, assemble videos, select text and images for online discussion, and produce content structures.
During class, students will assess each other’s modules and evaluate effective online teaching techniques. They will also attend lab once a week to learn how to edit video and create virtual illustrations.
Ren Wei, a teaching fellow for the course, asked shoppers on Wednesday to consider the benefits and limitations of examining artwork on a computer screen, rather than in a traditional museum.
By way of example, Wei said that while computers allow students to view inscriptions on an artistic chest in high definition, they restrict that persective to two dimensions.
Kristen T. Faulkner ’15, who shopped Chinese History 185 on Wednesday, said she is looking forward to taking the class because she feels it meshes well with her existing academic interests.
“I am in my third year of Chinese and a computer science concentrator, so I’m really excited about the technology side—and it deals with education too,” Faulkner said.
—Staff writer Amna H. Hashmi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.