What's the problem? First Holbo's course. It's a funny course because it's not about how to reason and persuade, nor about the difference between reason and persuasion, as the title might suggest. It's more a reading of the Euthyphro, the Meno, and Book I of the Republic, followed by Jonathan Haidt's The Happiness Hypothesis. Holbo is clear and funny, and he makes good use of cartoons that he draws himself. Watching a couple of parts of one of the eight lessons is a pleasant and mildly (for those who've already read the books he's talking about) educational way to spend half an hour or so. If you've read his posts at Crooked Timber, though, then you'll know that he can sometimes ramble a little. The seven parts of lesson 1 add up to about 75 minutes of lecture. The ten parts of lesson 8 add up to about 3 hours or so. And he's less clear on Haidt, which might be why he doesn't seem to get right to the point. So I quit.
I enjoyed the experience enough, though, that I recommend it and want to find another course like it. But without Holbo's sense of humor and cartoons I'm finding that watching lectures online is painfully dull. I would much rather read. Students must surely feel the same way. Of course, if you have to attend lectures then your pain is, arguably, irrelevant. But I don't have to do this. And it's hard to imagine anyone having to take a free online course.
- I don't see much of a future for MOOCs unless lecturers as entertaining as Holbo (and Sandel) can be found in sufficient numbers (or a lot of arm-twisting occurs), and
- if you know of any other good online philosophy courses I'd be very glad to hear about them.