Wednesday, 3 June 2015

dos MOOCs en Español

For a long while, there was no Spanish-language course of interest to me available at edX. Then, suddenly, there were two, both starting in February 2015: La España de El Quijote (Quijote501x) offered by Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Advanced Spanish Language and Culture (ASLCx) by St. Margaret’s Episcopal School. My past experience taught me that it’s a bad idea to take two (or more) MOOCs at the same time. But which one to choose?

In the end, greediness won and I enrolled for both courses. However, given that I had to go to work, and even actually work, I had to make some sacrifices. Like (o horror!) skipping homeworks.

Advanced Spanish Language and Culture

Of course it’s cool to put something “advanced” on your CV but for me ASLCx, a ten-week course presented by Marta E. Moore-Austin, felt more like intermediate than advanced. To pass the course, one has to score at least 70% of the grade. Grades were assigned as follows:

  • 12 quizzes (readings, videos, grammar) — 40% of the grade
  • 17 homeworks (readings, recordings, discussion forums and two emails) — 20% of the grade
  • Final exam — 40% of the grade
From this it was blindingly obvious to me that I should concentrate on quizzes and don’t waste my time on homeworks (each worth only 1 point). Especially I couldn’t bother with recording myself.

The topics of this course included:

  1. La identidad personal y pública
  2. Las familias y las comunidades
  3. La vida contemporánea
  4. La belleza y la estética
  5. La ciencia y la tecnología
  6. Los desafíos mundiales
The grammar points such as future, conditional and subjunctive, were presented rather formally and without much connection to the rest of the material. There were pleasant discoveries too, such as Ella o yo, or Nosotros, no, a short sci-fi story by José Bernardo Adolph.

To pass the final exam, one has to read five articles and answer multiple-choice questions. Easy, I thought, I had more than a week until a deadline, I can do one article a day or something. I started with a paper about Salvador Dalí, answered the multiple-choice questions and was about to go to bed (it was past midnight already) when by some reason I scrolled the page back to the top and read the following passage:

Contesta las siguientes preguntas de comprensión de lectura. Hay cinco selecciones. Debes terminar el examen dentro el tiempo en límite, 55 minutos, como el examen AP de College Board. ¡Buena suerte!
What?! I have only 55 minutes for all? Did the timer start when I opened the document about Dalí, or when I submitted my first response? In any case, I decided to carry on and, believe it or not, finished the remaining four tasks on time.

La España de El Quijote

I have to say straight away that this course, created and taught by Pedro García Martín, is not about Don Quixote, but rather about Siglo de Oro, Spanish Golden Age. I found it fascinating and challenging. The estimated effort (5—7 hours per week) sounds about correct... if you are a quick reader. In Spanish. I am not, and I some of the texts (all by Pedro García Martín) turned out to be rather demanding reading. On the other hand, I had no problems understanding the video lectures. And I did enjoy the Telenoticias. However, watching the videos is not enough to answer all the questions in the weekly exams. So you’d better do the readings.

Here’s the full program of the course.

Semana 1. Introducción: tiempo y espacio
  1. Tiempo.
  2. Espacio.
  3. El tiempo y el espacio en El Quijote.
Semana 2. La vida cotidiana
  1. La vida privada.
  2. La vida pública.
  3. La vida cotidiana en El Quijote.
Semana 3. Economía y sociedad
  1. Economía.
  2. Sociedad.
  3. Sociedad en El Quijote.
Semana 4. Política, religión e Inquisición
  1. Política.
  2. Religión.
  3. Inquisición.
  4. Política en El Quijote.
Semana 5. Literatura
  1. Escritores.
  2. Teatro.
  3. Literatura en El Quijote.
Semana 6. Las bellas artes
  1. Arquitectura.
  2. Pintura.
  3. Música.
  4. Las bellas artes en El Quijote.
Semana 7. La iconografía de El Quijote
  1. Iconografía de El Quijote.
  2. Adaptaciones nacionales.
  3. Cervantes, El Quijote y el Siglo de Oro en el cine.
Week 1. Introduction: time and space
  1. Time.
  2. Space.
  3. Time and space in Don Quixote.
Week 2. Daily life
  1. Private life.
  2. Public life.
  3. Daily life in Don Quixote.
Week 3. Economy and Society
  1. Economy.
  2. Society.
  3. Society in Don Quixote.
Week 4. Politics, religion and the Inquisition
  1. Politics.
  2. Religion.
  3. The Inquisition.
  4. Politics in Don Quixote.
Week 5. Literature
  1. Writers.
  2. Theatre.
  3. Literature in Don Quixote.
Week 6. The fine arts
  1. Architecture.
  2. Painting.
  3. Music.
  4. The fine arts in Don Quixote.
Semana 7. The iconography of Don Quixote
  1. Iconography of Don Quixote.
  2. National adaptations.
  3. Cervantes, Don Quixote and Spanish Golden Age in cinema.

Although the course started on 24 February, one could wait with weekly exams till April. The schedule as shown below could be fatal for procrastinators like me:

    Weeks 1 through 3: exams due 3 April 2015
    Week 4: exam due 10 April
    Week 5: exam due 17 April
    Weeks 6 and 7: exams due 20 April
As a result, I managed to miss a deadline for Week 1. Mind you, the task was not quite trivial: to adapt an excerpt from Quixote (there was a choice of three original fragments) by placing it in modern setting. I guess I could have done it by the end of the course. Oh well.

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