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UW-Madison offering Shakespeare MOOC

April 23, 2015 By Käri Knutson

On April 26, on the heels of William Shakespeare’s birthday, the University of Wisconsin–Madison will launch its third free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) of 2015, “Shakespeare in Community,” to an audience of more than 12,700 enrolled participants.

MOOCs allow people from around the globe to participate in noncredit learning experiences. Participants sign up for free online and watch educational videos, participate in discussion forums, read articles and often take quizzes or complete educational activities. They can participate in a MOOC no matter where they are located, as long as they have an Internet connection.

Photo: Engraving of Shakespeare

Engraving after Martin Droeshout from the Johnson/Steevens 1787 2nd edition of the plays.

“Shakespeare in Community” will begin as a MOOC, but is really more of a massive, public digital humanities event that aims to bring together a global community of people who are passionate about Shakespeare’s works. Over four weeks, the MOOC will cover four plays — “Romeo and Juliet,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Tempest.”

The MOOC will be co-taught by four main instructors:

Jesse Stommel, assistant professor in the Department of Liberal Arts and Applied Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Sarah Marty, arts program area director in the same department

R L Widmann, chief knowledge officer of Hybrid Pedagogy Inc., reader at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and assistant professor emerita, University of Colorado Boulder

Catherine DeRose, teaching assistant, in the Deptartment of English, UW–Madison

Participants will be invited to watch videos and engage with these plays in order to have conversations about what it means to be human, what it means to read Shakespeare in the context of a rapidly changing digital culture, and how to experience Shakespeare across cultures, languages and geography.

The course is also unique in its collaborative approach to engaging Shakespeare’s works. While the primary instructors have more than 60 collective years of experience teaching Shakespeare, additional guests will contribute to the MOOC, including instructors from the UW–Madison Department of English, experts from the Folger Library and actors from familiar Wisconsin theater groups like American Players Theatre in Spring Green, the Young Shakespeare Players, and Children’s Theater of Madison, among others.

And, as a way to bring Shakespeare alive for families and community members in the Madison area, UW–Madison MOOCs in partnership with the Young Shakespeare Players are hosting an evening event of theater performances, snacks and crafts at the Madison Central Library June 15. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required and Shakespearean dress is encouraged.

UW-Madison MOOCs are supported by the campuswide Educational Innovation effort.

Sign up for ‘Shakespeare in Community’ or learn more