Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bogus MLA Courses

Accept no cheap substitutes! Fakes and Simulations have flooded the market!
For three years now, the MLA has offered high-quality online courses to people from all around the world [but only in English, so far].

Robert Anton Wilson ran all the first few courses, but slowly the range of tutors has expanded, and also the subjects tackled. Current instructors include Patricia Monaghan, Rev. Ivan Stang, Philip H. Farber, Antero Alli, Peter J. Carroll, Starhawk, R. U. Sirius, Douglas Rushkoff and David Jay Brown.

Of course, not everyone has sufficient time to study, and those with time on their hands may not have the money…but you can always join the general forum, for the flavour of the place. If you understand the freelance life you may understand why tutors need paying (!) and the course fee also means you get a closed environment, with concentrated energy from other students, rather than the potentially dispersive/disruptive content of free-for-all forums, which you can find on the web on almost any subject, and which certainly have a value of their own.

As RAW graduated to His Serene Absence earlier this year, we can never complete some of the assignments he set us. The feedback he got from participants meant he continued to tune his teaching methods and subject matter from course to course. He would certainly have noted a certain disappointment in sombunall students that in one of his last (and very ambitious) 12-week courses [The Tale of The Tribe] we failed to cover all the ground that the Syllabus hinted at. As it happens, those of us who enjoyed the course did not mind that we focussed on just some of the material on offer (we still assumed we could do pick-ups later). You can only do so much in 3 months.

Anyway – for those who wanted less Joyce and Pound, and more on the communications/information people of the 20th Century, I have begun encouraging the creation of brief teasers/tasters or possible courses in the open forum. And yes, I did mean them as a joke, before you ask…MLA may eventually initiate self-directed courses on some of these, or seek out appropriate tutors, but meanwhile you can join in relaxed conversation about McLuhan, Gregory Bateson, Bucky Fuller, Shannon, Bandler, Korzybski, Nietzsche, etc.

[2014 update] Although that generation of the forum has gone into hiding, I did find a link to that thread on the Wayback Machine.  For what it's worth.   aka Bogus


Anonymous said...

as a former student of an MLA course, my recommendation is:

restructure MLA courses to be more "wiki"-like while also encouraging real-time communication (like chat, voice, or video). when one course finishes, they will have constructed a wiki that the next semester can use or continue from.

Bogus Magus said...

Oh I agree Anon! And thanks for the constructive comments. Of course, I have nothing to do with the Admin side, but they listen to feedback.

We have all asked that our work not disappear a month after the course finishes, although sometimes that may have happened from restrictions of server space, or possibly for copyright reasons. The tutors own their course material, and I guess students 'own' their own words (?)

Students can save what they can (and some of us do) but it would feel better if we could continue to access the material.

To that end, some talk of self-directed courses has gone on (so the tutor role goes) - and current courses do occasionally use the Chat Room and the Lecture Room, etc. Some of the limitations arise from the tutor's material (and their ability to use online resources). I know Phil offered both video and sound clips on a weekly basis, for instance.

I have contributed to Wiki's but have never set one up. However, I recently suggested we start a Wiki for Illuminatus! (having seen the one made for Gravity's Rainbow(see links at right).

Bogus Magus said...

Oh, and the only real limitation on Live Chat? Students all over the world in different time-zones.

Asynchronous communication solves that. When we had Bob online he would get 6pm (PST), New York would get 9pm (EST) and the UK would get 1am (GMT), for instance. Not much help to the people in China, South America, Australia, etc - but the best we could do.

Then throw in Summer Time (so UK then 2am) and you can see the kind of problem - although it did highlight some Bucky Fuller type points to people who only live in one local little time tunnel of their own!

Almost as good as Bob's calendar jokes...


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