Renowned physics professor Marcelo Gleiser is teaching a new massive open online course (MOOC) named “Question Reality!”, which explores the intersection between philosophy, religion and science.
The course began on January 31 as part of DartmouthX, an initiative dedicated to expanding Dartmouth’s collection of MOOCs since 2014, in collaboration with the nonprofit online learning consortium edX. In an interview with the Dartmouth student newspaper, Gleiser said that the course idea came from a book he wrote, “The Island of Knowledge,” that was well received. He proposed a traditional course on the interface between science, philosophy and religion and it was approved. Later on he received a grant to start the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement and had funding for two MOOC productions.
While Gleiser has taught at Dartmouth for 26 years, this is his first MOOC. The course material is taught via video and then there are interviews with experts from many fields – from a classics professor talking about Lucretius to a CERN physicist talking about the search for ultimate particles of nature. Students answer multiple choice questions to make sure they are actually learning the material. MOOCs can accept thousands of students, which can make such an undertaking a unique challenge even for an experienced professor such as Gleiser. The course itself runs for six weeks and is self-paced as other MOOCs traditionally are.