Much ado about MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses are a 21st-century phenomenon and have become a popular means of learning, especially in the current worldwide lockdown situation. They are ‘massive’ and ‘open’ because there are no limits to the number of participants and no qualification requirements. With the development of technology, they are a natural progression from correspondence courses.

Kells 202vPlutarch GG-2-1 There are hundreds of courses available, on a myriad of topics. While each course is unique, they are usually a mixture of articles, videos and exercises, with the opportunity for students to comment, and to ask or respond to questions on each section. Participants can learn at their own pace and to their own ability.

Two MOOCs, available through FutureLearn, draw heavily on Research Collections Material. They are free, although you can choose to pay for upgrades such as unlimited access rather than a designated timeframe, and a certificate on completion of the course.

The Book of Kells: Exploring an Irish Medieval Masterpiece

Discover medieval Ireland using the Book of Kells, a ninth-century manuscript featuring the four gospels of the New Testament. Presented by Dr Rachel Moss, Head of the Department of History of Art and Architecture, and Dr Fáinche Ryan, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Loyola Institute in the School of Religion, the course lasts four weeks and covers

    • Where and how the manuscript was made.
    • The social context from which the manuscript emerged, including early medieval faith and politics.
    • The artistic context of the manuscript, reflecting local and international styles.
    • The theology and interpretations of the text.
    • How and why the manuscript survived.
    • The Book of Kells and contemporary culture.

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The History of the Book in the Early Modern Period: 1450 to 1800

The early modern period was an exciting time for invention and innovation. Presented by Dr Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the Edward Worth Library, Dublin; Dr Jane Carroll, Ussher Professor of Children’s Literature in the School of English; Dr Mark Sweetnam, Assistant Professor in the School of English; and Dr Joseph Clarke, Assistant Professor in European History, this course also lasts four weeks and covers

  • How books were made in Western Europe: designing types, illustrating, sewing, binding, and finishing books.
  • How books were sold in Western Europe: bestsellers, collectors, advertising and book auctions.
  • How books were read in Western Europe: books and readers, families’ libraries and annotating books.
  • How books changed the world: reforming religion, transforming medicine and science, and remaking the state.

Tale of Tub
Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Both of these courses are running now and signing up is easy. If it is not convenient to start now, why not bookmark them for the next time they run?