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More free online college courses should use Lord of the Rings and MMOs in their curriculum

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Posted by: Andrew Clouther

Education and the very ways we learn are changing. Technology is advancing at a near alarming rate and near infinite knowledge is attainable from computers and our phones. Even media such as a video game has the potential to teach us both directly and indirectly. Why shouldn’t they? As gaming becomes more mainstream, why not use a means that students enjoy to help get the lessons across? Not too long ago StarCraft was used to teach business courses. What can be learned from MMORPGs?

Over at Vanderbilt University, Professor Jay Clayton is teaching a course “focused on Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings Online, this course explores what happens to stories and films when they are turned into online games.” There have been a surplus of courses over the years comparing movies to novels, but what about a new layer of video games? If there is something lost and gained from turning a book in to a movie, what happens when a book becomes a movie and then into a video game? Now add thousands of people interacting with each other at once. How does the experience change?

If you’re asking yourself does this limit your audience to only gamers? The answer is no. Professor Clayton states that “no background in gaming is required.” The game focused upon in the class is The Lord of the Rings Online and that is free to play title. There will be two paths for this class, those who want to play the game and those who do not. For those who choose to play it, you’ll have the opportunity to play with both fellow classmates and the professor. The only actual suggested readings to the class are J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring and to have watched Peter Jackson's movie The Fellowship of the Ring.      

Class format will consist of lecture videos, which are between 10-20 minutes in length, in-game interactive assignments and written assignments (if you choose this path), with the option of student video projects and game design projectsThe world load will be about 2-4 hours a week. There will be seven weeks of class with course syllabus looking like this:

Week 1: Game on!  The history and theory of MMOs

Week 2: LOTRO and Tolkien's Ring Cycle

Week 3: Gaming and the romance tradition

Week 4: The Fellowship of the Ring: Novel, Film, Game

Week 5: Pwning Spenser’s Faerie Queene

Week 6: Space and time in virtual narratives

Week 7: The Holy Grail: A good end game

Why am I telling you about this? Besides the fact that I’m extremely jealous that this course wasn’t available to me at my college, this arts and humanities class is being taught for FREE online via Coursera. Sign up today if this subject matter interests you or if you want to learn something completely different. Check out the intro video below and sigh up HERE.

Learn.

Tags: The Lord of the Rings Online, Coursera

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