Take My Class for Free-Seriously

David Parry bio photo By David Parry


Yesterday I decided to post the working syllabus for my grad class for the upcoming semester in an attempt to elicit feedback before I make some final choices. I then posted that I had done this twitter. Not surprisingly I received some useful feedback. What I hadn’t anticipated was interest in taking this class from people in my twitter network, mostly grad. students at other universities where a course like this is not offered. So, then I started thinking, why not give the class away for free to those who want it?

Here’s what I am thinking:

The class at UTD (University of Texas at Dallas) is structured like a typical graduate seminar, that is a heavy amount of reading, followed by class discussion/lecture lead by me. It is easy enough for anyone to download the syllabus, and do the reading. The difficult part is coordinating some sort of online discussion section for those who are not at UTD, as I feel a large part of the learning experience is informed by discoursing about the material. What I thought might work is the following:

  • Students who want to take this class do the reading as they would with any graduate seminar.
  • I record all my grad classes, so the students who want to take this class who are not at UTD could download the recording as a podcast, and listen to it. This clearly is not as good as being in class, but gets closer to the experience.
  • Then, sometime later in the week, we (by we I mean me and those who want to take it online) “meet” online somewhere to discuss the reading for say an hour.

This would not be for credit from UTD, the knowledge is free, the degree will cost you money. Grad students who are currently enrolled at another university though could arrange with their home institution to take a directed reading on this material, with a professor at their university signing off on it, perhaps by writing a seminar paper which that professor would evaluate. Of course grad students who just want the knowledge would not have to do any work save reading, listening, and showing up for a discussion. Think of it as a more formalized reading group.

So, I am considering conducting this experiment. Serious, you can just take this class for free, I’ll give away the knowledge. A couple of caveats though. First I am not sure I can do this, I need to find a way to host online discussion, preferably video conferencing. Second, I am only going to do this if I have the right group of people and the right number. I think perhaps between 5-10 committed students. Less than five the discussion is not so productive, more than ten and it can get out of hand. Also I am thinking of limiting this to grad students currently enrolled at other universities. I realize this is rather prejudicial, but if I am going to do this I want to “stack the deck in my favor” by having a group that has a relatively homogenous sense of purpose and educational background, this makes the discussion far more productive (I could be convinced otherwise though).

Thoughts? Issues I haven’t thought of? An idea for how to host a video conference for between 5-10 people? Leave a comment.

Interested in this class? Send me an email, and if I get enough response just maybe I’ll run this experiment in free knowledge. So, pass the word around to grad students who are interested in Emerging Media, but don’t have classes at their schools. You can find information about the class at the course blog.

Update: Nils Peterson asks why not do the “full monte” (i.e. make the class really progressive and refigure even assessment?). Read his post, and my reply at his blog. (Basically I agree with him, but this is just a strategic first step.)