<p>Brown University is launching the first two of three massive open online courses (MOOCs). With total enrollment topping 87,000, the courses, offered free of charge, will “open the door to sharing some of the best of what Brown has to offer.”</p>

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —More than 87,000 new students will be taking Brown University courses virtually this summer, beginning today, Monday June 3.  About 34,100 students have signed on to take Archeology’s Dirty Little Secrets, and another 52,900 will be online to learn about The Fiction of Relationship.  A third course, Coding the Matrix: Linear Algebra through Computer Science Applications, to be taught by Philip Klein, professor of computer science, will launch on July 1.   

The courses are being offered in partnership with Coursera, a company that provides a platform for free online noncredit courses to the global community.

We couldn’t be more thrilled about this launch of our first free online courses through Coursera. It opens the door to sharing some of the best of what Brown has to offer to a world learning community, ” said Katherine Bergeron, dean of the College.

Susan E. Alcock, Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology, will teach Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets, which explores the profession, the practice, and the problems of archaeology.  By the end of the eight-week course, which runs through July 28th, students will have a clear understanding of what archeology is, how it is done, and, according to Alcock, will never look at the ground in the same way again.

Alcock assembled a large team to help prepare and teach the class, from Brown undergraduates and graduate students to other archaeologists on campus.  The course features short lectures and hands-on demonstrations of everything from garbage archaeology to making a cuneiform tablet.  A highlight of the class is a series of conversations about Brown fieldwork around the world, including Alcock’s chats with her fellow MacArthur award winner Professor Stephen Houston about his work at the site of El Zotz in Guatemala.

The students in the course are as internationally diverse as the fieldwork in the course.  As of launch time, there are students enrolled from every continent except Antarctica.  On the courses very active Facebook page, students have already been sharing their enthusiasm for discovering archaeology around them. Susan from Silicon Valley writes, “I had no idea there was anything of archeological interest in our area, but found out the Ynigo Mound (prehistoric shellmound) is located somewhere near the intersection of two big local freeways. Who would have guessed?!”  And parents are taking the course with their curious children.  Wendy from Portland, Oregon writes, “We have some boys that love finding things in the dirt and dream of being Indiana Jones some day. Hopefully, this will help open their eyes a little more.”

This course is breaking ground in other ways.  As the first massive open online course (MOOC) in archaeology, it is being promoted by the Archaeological Institute of America with the motto: 'Make history while you take history.'

“Archaeology forces you to think about what came before and hopefully that makes you think about what will come next,” said Alcock.

Arnold Weinstein, Edna and Richard Salomon Distinguished Professor and Professor of Comparative Literature at Brown, has transformed an extremely popular lecture course on the portrayal of relationships in literature—a course he has taught for more than 20 years—into a more intimate and interactive online offering,The Fiction of Relationship.

Weinstein and his students will explore the question of the nature of our relationship to others and the world and use literature to help see these relationships more clearly. The course will examine ten great works of narrative fiction from the 18th to the 20th century, including writers such as Brontë, Melville, Kafka, Faulkner and Morrison. Weinstein argues that literature itself is an experiential adventure, a kind of voyage into other times, places and lives.

The most critical relationships in our lives—the comings and goings that define us—are not always easy to get a fix on, but literature offers us a special sighting on these arrangements” explained Weinstein, “ Through exploratory readings of ten great narrative works, we will seek to make relationship visible, bringing our traffic with the world and with others into clearer focus.”

Students will learn in 10- to 15-minute lesson segments over a twelve-week period, with an anticipated workload of 12-15 hours per week. 

Students who sign on to Professor Klein’s course, which begins July 1, will learn the concepts and methods of linear algebra, and how to use them to think about computational problems arising in computer science. Coursework includes building on the concepts to write small programs and run them on real data.

Brown is one of 80 domestic and international universities to join Coursera.  Launched in 2012 by two Stanford University faculty members, the platform now offers 378 courses in 25 different areas of study and has enrolled more than 3.7 million students across four continents.