ModPo Review: Week One of My Coursera Experience


With over 31,000 students now enrolled in the course, the enthusiasm for Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, or “ModPo,” is running high.  This week, when the course opened on Monday, I was overwhelmed with teaching my college class; studying for my graduate course on First Amendment issues in mass communication; and attending all sorts of meetings and events for the organizations I’m involved with.  I thought to myself, How in the world am I going to complete this course?  Is it worth it to take ModPo right now?

Thankfully, things settled down by Wednesday, and by the end of the week, I was really enjoying my experience in ModPo.  Week One was all about Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman.  This week, I read and analyzed three Dickinson poems and portions of Whitman’s “Song of Myself” alongside Professor Al Filreis and his team of smart, engaging TAs.  I took two quizzes on Dickinson’s poems and posted a few responses on her poetry to the discussion forum.  Today, our first writing assignment will open, and I will be tasked with analyzing a Dickinson poem on my own.  I can’t wait to see how those writing assignments will work.  Though not all 31,000+ students will complete a poetry analysis, I have no idea how the ModPo TA team will be grading our work or providing feedback for us.  Apparently, there will be a lot of peer review… How we will peer review one another on a discussion forum is still new territory, but I’m excited to see how that works.

This week, I stumbled upon a wonderful discussion thread and several posts that I felt I could carry with me in future Coursera classes, future UCF classes, and into the classroom I lead.  When I tried to find that thread and those posts again today to share those ideas with you, I realized the biggest downfall of ModPo: the discussion forums.  The forums are impossible to navigate and desperately need a makeover.  There is no “search” feature, no way to find the ideas you’ve posted, no way to clearly navigate through hundreds of thousands of posts.  Though I’ve tried for an hour to find these great lessons to copy word-for-word for you here, I’m throwing in the towel.  I give up.  Great things are definitely happening on the discussion forums; it’s just too confusing to find those great things.


8 thoughts on “ModPo Review: Week One of My Coursera Experience

  1. Hi Alex. I’m one of the TAs in the course and saw your post (thanks for the kind words, btw), and I just wanted to say hi and touch base with you about the discussion forums.

    I totally agree with you — it certainly can be a little like the wild west, and a bit difficult to navigate. So I just wanted to offer you a quick suggestion that might (hopefully) make it a little more manageable:

    Try bookmarking whatever message thread you want to remember. Each discussion thread actually has its own unique URL/page, so you can bookmark it and go back to it whenever you like. (Alternatively, you can “subscribe” to it, but depending on your settings, you run the risk of getting deluged with email notifications whenever anyone else posts to it.)

    There actually is a search feature too (in the upper right), although unfortunately you can’t search for names of users, only text in the posts.

    I hope this may help. It’s definitely a learning process for all of us. (Ooh, how meta.)

    Anyway, if you have any questions or comments or any feedback in general, please don’t hesitate to contact me or any of the other TAs or Al.

    Dave Poplar

    • Hey Dave, Thanks so much for your comment and your feedback. I’ve enjoyed watching, listening to, and learning from you and the rest of the TAs during Week One, and I’m excited to work with you for the next few weeks. You are all so passionate about the course and your work with ModPo; all of the students appreciate you going above and beyond. Thank you, Alex

  2. Hello Alex ~ enjoyed reading your first weeks impression. I was going to mention one of the things Dave stated, which is subscribing to a thread I’ve commented on so I can have a record of it. That said, if it becomes uber active (50 emails in my inbox) I unsubscribe, but keep one of the emails so I can easily link back to the thread. (I used a picture when setting up my profile so it is easier to scan for my post since so many of us are not using pics).
    Continued success with your hectic studies! Cheers ~ a

  3. Hello Alex, I found your post just by ‘googling’ for ModPos… is lovely to find people taking same online course across the world :-) As you, I am in love with ModPo and cannot wait to read and listen and see more of what Al and his team have for us…

    @Dave… Thank you for being great instructor!

    Angela, very useful tip! Thank you!!

  4. Hi Alex,
    The course actually began while I was on vacation on the ocean in a small town known for its art colony, so it gave everything a break- the beauty and quiet of the ocean and the feeling that I was back to the reading of poetry. So enjoy the class and get in touch with what is internal, what is you, the Emily inside your room.
    I’m also taking Philosophy from Coursera, but its not a clique that poetry deals with emotion, so best sentiments from me.
    Your classmate,
    Scott Lord

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