Coursera, etc.

Enlisting on courses such as The Modern and The Postmodern and The Fiction of Relationship are just one of the reasons why I signed up at Coursera. I've been wanting to get a Master's this year, but my wife initially said it would be too much to handle--what with a kid growing up and night shift work. (I disputed her claim and told her it would be better to take MA classes this year, else I won't get my momentum and would probably think twice next year until the urge dissipates. It's a long story, really.)

So far, so good. Coursera is one of those--if not the only MOOCs (Massive Online Open Course)--which has lots of course offerings to choose from, Humanities included. The reading list relies on Project Gutenburg and Amazon (only optional, but tempting).

In an 1966 New Yorker profile by Calvin Tomkins, In The Outlaw Area, Buckminster Fuller--the man behind geodesic domes among tons of other inventions--published a book, Education Automation, the essence of which is this:
"Everybody will be going back to school periodically (...) [b]ut, of course, the university itself won't be anything like what it is now. We'll get rid of all the teachers who are just holding on to their jobs in order to eat--all the deadwood, which is the biggest problem in a university anyhow. The deadwood will get fellowships to study or work on their own, and TV will come in to take over most of the actual teaching. There will be a large technical staff making documentary movies (...) with tools like individually selected and articulated two-way TV that will permit any student anywhere in the world to select from a vast stockpile of documentaries on any subject and watch it over his own TV set at home. And the great teachers won't have to spend their time delivering the same lectures over and over, because they'll put them on film. The teachers and scholars will be free to spend their time developing more and more knowledge about man's whole experience--past, present and future."
Replace the TV with computers and Coursera is all about this vision.

With the current course I'm enrolled in, The Fiction of Relationship (Brown University) do offer discounts on a handful of their reading list items by entering promo keywords, but I really hope they could develop a system where people from the third-world countries could get these books for free. Only, for them, it would probably be another name for piracy.