Provider: Harvard @EdX [course page]
Lecturers: Peter K. Bol and William C. Kirby + others
Subject: Humanities / History + Sociology + Philosophy
Delivery: self-paced asynchronous study
Recommended Load: 3 hrs/week over 8 weeks
Completion Date: 06/23/2014
Description: Peter and Bill lead a team of experts teach us history, sociology and philosophy of China focused on the periods leading up to and including the Warring States era.
Strengths: Many of us have seen news stories and articles on modern China but have little to no knowledge of the issues and events that have shaped the region. One of the ongoing problems that I’ve found with learning more about China is the issue with language. The different script poses a bit of a dilemma for me, but this course introduced and encouraged the learning of the spoken and written language through a series of activities and quizzes. This made the language accessible and has led to me enrolling in a course in Basic Chinese over at the ALISON website.
The course goes from the four sections on time, space, identity and geography in the first week to three weeks on history, finishing with two weeks on Chinese Philosophy. The experts offer insight into the society of Ancient China in the various eras by way of texts and artifacts such as Oracle Bones and Bronze vessels. Students are encouraged to watch 3-D models of the Bronzes in particular, before being asked to offer some observations on their various traits, thus giving students a more “hands-on” approach to the coursework.
As mentioned before, the course spends the last two weeks on Philosophy. Given the popularity of Confucius, the first of these is focused on learning about his ideas and background before moving on to his successors. The last of these weeks discusses other philosophers during the Hundred Schools of Thought period during the Warring States era. It was quite interesting seeing what other thinkers considered the best way to deal with that time of chaos, especially compared to some of the material covered in the introductory course on Philosophy that I studied earlier this year.
Weaknesses: It actually requires some consideration of philosophical thought and artifacts, as well as the inclination to learn characters from a foreign script. This takes work and dedication, something that may not appeal to folks lacking curiosity about other cultures.
Conclusion: I got a heck of a lot out of this course. Having grown up watching lots of kung-fu movies and more recently enjoying the Dynasty Warriors series based off of the Three Kingdoms era, I found myself getting excited when I saw this first part of a six-course series being listed as self-paced at EdX. It takes a multi-disciplinary approach to the topic, allowing students a more expanded understanding of the region during the eras covered.
Given my own love of the course I have now made room in my schedule in order to fre up room for future instalments in the series and have also enrolled in a basic Chinese course over at ALISON. This course has renewed my interest in Asian Studies. In any case, I recommend this course with an interest in learning about other regions and a passion for history.
As a final note, this self-paced course also offers certificates every 4 months to students have have received a passing score of 75%.