Ok, I admit it I like Egyptology. Not in the ancient aliens, pyramids on the moon conspiracy sense but in the formal academic sense. I like studying the language, history, and archeology of the region. I’ve completed several MOOCs focused on the topic and I describe these experiences below.
Introduction to Ancient Egypt and Its Civilization
I’ve just completed the course Introduction to Ancient Egypt and Its Civilization! The course was organized with weeks including several videos and quizzes on the videos as well as optional discussions on the material. I think my favorite week was the one on mummification. I would like to learn more about the elements the Egyptians believed to be part of the person. Specifically, the ka, ba, akh, shadow, name, and body.
Ancient Egypt: A history in Six Objects
I recently completed Ancient Egypt: A history in six objects from instructors from instructors at the University of Manchester’s Online Egyptology faculty http://www.egyptologyonline.ls.manchester.ac.uk/. This taster course was offered for free on the Coursera learning platform: https://www.coursera.org/course/ancientegypt I would love to take more courses through the University of Manchester’s Online Egyptology program and this was an amazing opportunity because it was free. I completed the course by taking weekly quizzes on the readings and lecture videos and presenting my own history of Egypt in a Youtube video.
My history of Egypt in six objects is available on Youtube.
Some thoughts on instructional design: I was impressed by the use of video in the course (each around 5-10 minutes) and specifically the great collections available through the University of Manchester. The course content was engaging and interesting. It was fun to see how many people from across the world are interested in ancient Egypt. I think the criteria for peer feedback could have been improved as well as for the main assignment. Some students really wanted it to be a full academic experience. While others saw the course as a chance to get together with like minded individuals. Some students complained about other’s copyright infringement as well as plagiarism. These concerns would have been helpful for the instructors to address. This wasn’t an issue I saw in any of the peer postings I reviewed. I looked at 10 peer submissions (the requirement was 3). The Coursera site itself and it’s mobile app was straightforward except for the viewing of grades on the peer review submission area. It was very nice to be able to download the videos in the app for later viewing. I only wish I could have posted to forums from the app. I also liked that the forums sent notifications to email so I did not have to wonder if someone responded to my posts. I hope Manchester does more courses on Coursera. I will take them all. It was a great experience and I highly recommend it to anyone interested.
BLUE: a symposium exploring aspects of life in ancient Egypt on Udemy platform
Tonight I completed BLUE: a symposium exploring aspects of life in ancient Egypt. This was another free course offered by Manchester University’s Online Egyptology program. All of the lectures were interesting and informative. Snape’s lecture looked at the meaning of blue-green color and what it seemed to mean to the Egyptians. I especially liked his use of Ancient Egyptian color words and what they seemed to mean to mean to the Egyptians. Black like the black land was for fertility, red was the desert, and green-blue either the sky/water or the Gods. I liked how the word for lapis lazuli meant something like delightful or scintillating. Nicholson’s lecture was one of the rare treats when modern Egyptology does work to confirm or disconfirm past theories. In this case Nicholson did work at Amarna to determine if Petrie’s theories about it being a glass-making location was possible. Using artifacts and chemistry he built his own kiln on the supposed Egyptian model and was able to replicate the glass-making process. Not all of details of Petrie’s theory was confirmed but the location was plausible. Godenho’s discussion of the Amarna letters and letters from Amarna to Thebes was interesting to me because he showed an example of the Aten written in a cartouche. He also described how an individual at Amarna was upset with another individual at Thebes for not sending his “women” likely in my supposition his possible fiancé. I’m overstating the case here and Godenho does not say this it seemed like a lonely individual from past asking why his colleague at Thebes was not living up to a previous arrangement. Price then discussed and beautiful blue ushabti at the Manchester Museum and described how they were used as helpers in the tomb.
Instructional Design Considerations
I’ve tried both Coursera and Udemy at this point and feel like Coursera seems to be the more professional/academic platform I’ve explored so far. Coursera has a vast amount of universities building courses and specializations on their system. In contrast, Udemy seems to be a open to anyone building courses regardless of their professional qualifications. I did like how all of the content in the course was available on my phone. The videos were high quality, but were quite lengthy sometimes upwards of 13-20 minutes. I did loose some engagement because of the length. Also this Udemy course was essentially independent study with no interaction with anyone else enrolled in the course. This is great when I’m accessing the course two years after development but bad for building any kind of community. Coursera’s version had a required peer review piece that I found to be very helpful and engaging. It is interesting to note that it appears Manchester is going to use Udemy more in the future rather than Coursera. Though this is just my assumption based on this page: http://www.egyptologyonline.ls.manchester.ac.uk/tastercourses/ One other element I would have liked to have seen is a certificate of completion. I can’t easily see if this course supports that feature.