When I was given an iPhone for Christmas last year, I began exploring the apps and other materials that are available for the iPhone and came across iTunes U—Apple’s open courseware platform, which currently hosts thousands of “courses,” all available for free. [Unfortunately, since Apple's courses are generally just video or audio files of lectures, they aren't fullfledged courses.] Apple isn’t the only platform. Perhaps better known is MIT’s Open Courseware project, which includes 2,100 courses (full-fledged courses this time), also all for free. There are many others also.
But I didn’t find any courses in one of my principal areas of interest: Mormonism.
I did find one course in the Apple iTunesU catalog (other than the theater courses about the Book of Mormon musical!) that included Mormonism in its description, apparently a lecture by Richard Bushman in a series of lectures at the Claremont Graduate University, but other than that Mormonism is completely ignored in online courses.
I suppose that isn’t too surprising, given that Mormonism doesn’t attract all that many courses anyway. But in another sense, Mormonism (and Mormon Literature in this case) seem like the perfect subjects for some kind of online course: It is of limited appeal in any one area, but could attract enough students online to justify a course. Also, nothing about the subject requires sophisticated computer programs or hard-to-find resources that make it easier to teach the course in person.
I have, of course, looked at BYU’s independent study catalog, but the number of courses is underwhelming compared to MIT’s catalog (to say nothing of the fact that courses cost as much as $500). And the Mormon courses in that catalog are limited to those in the religious studies department—so they are basically the same courses available at your local Institute, and, of course, Mormon literature is excluded.
We’ve talked here on A Motley Vision before about the problem of the relative ignorance of Mormons about their own literature. As Americans we consider American Literature important enough that it is a required course in High School. I know most other developed single-language (or 2 or 3 language) countries do the same (I’m not sure what they do in a place like India). But we don’t have any way of letting Mormons know about Mormon literature.
Regardless of whether Mormon literature is as important as a national literature, I think it would be much easier for Mormons to understand their heritage if such a course were available.
I don’t know about the various other platforms that are available, but Apple’s iTunesU appears to be fairly open — not only Universities but other academic and quasi-academic organizations also post their courses on its platform. If the “course” is just a series of recorded lectures like those on iTunesU, it should be relatively inexpensive to put together — provided enough “experts” could volunteer their time to the project.
So, what do you think? Would it be a good idea to put together such a course?