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Postscript on Gregory Nagy’s “The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours”

June 18, 2013

Here and here, I complained about the poor quality of Gregory Nagy’s “MOOC” online course on the Ancient Greek Hero.

Today, I received the newly published textbook that Nagy wrote for the (traditional) course he regularly teaches.  Despite the poor quality of the online course, the printed book appears adequate (this is not a full review, as I have only read part of the book; but my initial impression is that it is a “two and half star” book out of four stars).  This might at first appear to be surprising, since pre-publication versions of the book were available as part of Nagy’s online course.

So, how is it that a book can be adequate while the course is so poor?

I think that a few things account for it:

  • Nagy’s online course has abysmal “homework” and “quizzes.”  The book does not suffer from this problem.
  • Nagy’s online course has distracting videos, which are rather over-produced.  The book, of course, is a much more traditional affair.
  • Nagy’s online course is not linear, but branches out in multiple directions (forums!  videos!  supplementary texts!); while a book is more linear.  While being linear may seem like a restriction, for course learning, it has significant advantages.

But most of all, I think that there is something about the medium of reading online.  We are taught to read and concentrate for hours with books, but reading online is necessarily distracting.  It is nice to “unplug” and concentrate on a book; but that is not going to happen with an online course.

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