Harvard asks alumni for help with online course

Alumni of elite colleges are accustomed to getting requests for money from their alma mater, but the appeal that Harvard sent to thousands of graduates last Monday was something new: a plea to donate their time and intellects to the rapidly expanding field of online education, writes Richard Pérez-Peña for The New York Times.

For the first time, Harvard has opened a humanities course, The Ancient Greek Hero, as a free online class. In an email sent last Monday, it asked alumni who had taken the course at the university to volunteer as online mentors and discussion group managers. The new online course is based on Professor Gregory Nagy’s Concepts of the Ancient Greek Hero, a popular offering since the late 1970s that has been taken by some 10,000 students.

The online version, which began last week and will run until late June, has 27,000 students enrolled. One of the challenges of “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, is managing their sheer size, and encouraging thousands of students to engage one another, since they cannot all converse with the professor. Tapping into a deep pool of alumni offers at least a partial way around that problem, one that a few schools have discussed trying.
Full report on The New York Times site