As colleges and universities around the world suspend in-person classes for the semester and move online, a number of institutions and platforms have made classes—including several on Buddhism—available free to the public. While part of the reasoning for the effort has been to share professionally created and edited classes among higher education colleagues, the change provides an opportunity for those outside of the education system to enjoy an academic introduction to a number of disciplines
Speaking of the effort to assist colleges and universities in need of high quality courses, Leah Belsky, chief enterprise officer at Coursera, said: “The majority of institutions in the world do not have the digital infrastructure to suddenly flip the switch and have people learn online.” (Education Dive)
In addition to offering a number of courses to the public, Coursera will be opening their entire catalogue of more than 3,800 courses to all colleges and universities affected by the coronavirus. Those institutions will need to sign up with Coursera to provide access to their students. Duke University, which has a campus in the city of Kunshan, China, has already been using the service for several weeks.
While instructors around the world are scrambling to create effective courses online, several have already been made with collaborations between Ivy League professors and leading online education platforms. Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, said his company’s program would also help institutions around the world teach remotely. “Together, our network of universities at edX are harnessing the existing community that we’ve already formed.” (Education Dive)
In a statement on their website, edX explained: “We believe that by sharing access to content across a global group of universities, we can unite like-minded students and instructors to learn as a digital community.” (edX)
Four courses on Buddhism that are available freely to the public are: China’s First Empires and the Rise of Buddhism, a collaboration between Harvard University and edX; Buddhism and Modern Psychology, offered by Princeton University by way of Coursera; Indian & Tibetan River of Buddhism, through Columbia University and edX; and Buddhism Through its Scriptures, also from Harvard University and edX.
China’s First Empires and the Rise of Buddhism is taught by Harvard Business School professor and professor of China studies William C. Kirby with the historian and professor of East Asian Languages at Harvard Peter K. Bol. The course offers insights into the unique conditions and character of early Chinese Buddhism.
Buddhism and Modern Psychology is listed as an “all-time top 100” class. (Class Central) The course is taught by psychologist and author Robert Wright, who later used insights from the class as the foundation for his New York Times bestselling book, Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment (Simon and Schuster 2017).
The Indian and Tibetan River of Buddhism course is led by Columbia professor Robert Thurman, tracing first the earliest developments of Buddhism in India, through its several transformations, and then its introduction and further modifications in Tibet. Finally, the course on Buddhism Through its Scriptures is created by Harvard’s Prof. Charles Hallisey with graduate student in Buddhist studies Alexis Bader. The class offers a variety of the vast tradition’s writings for study and reflection. The texts that have been selected aim to expose students to Buddhist poetry, philosophy, art, and devotional literature.
Already, more than 200 colleges and universities around the US have closed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, with many more around the world already closed. (CNBC)
MOOC providers offer some free course access amid coronavirus outbreak (Education Dive)
Helping universities and colleges take learning online in response to the coronavirus (Coursera)
edX Global University Partner Community Joins Forces to Help Students Impacted by Coronavirus (edX)
Your college closed early because of coronavirus. You might not get your money back (CNBC)