21st Century Learning

Stanford Launches Literature and Social Online Learning Class

Stanford University has wrapped its inaugural session of Literature and Social Online Learning, a new, interdisciplinary class that brings together students from computer science and the humanities to collaborate on literature technology projects.

Students in the course work individually and in interdisciplinary teams to "study, develop and test new digital methods, games, apps, interactive social media uses to innovate how the humanities can engage and educate students and the public today," according to the course description on Stanford's site. The course aims to help students learn to communicate across disciplines, rethink literature education and develop new ideas for using technology in the classroom.

The course also introduces project-based learning — where students work to solve a problem or build a product — to the humanities. While project-based learning is common in computer science classes, it's unusual in the humanities, but "students found the model motivating and exciting," according to a news release from Stanford.

Some of the literature technology projects developed through the course include:

  • A series of e-books pairing poems with accompanying audio tracks read by the poets;
  • Cureador, a tool for sharing book recommendations with friends and family;
  • ParallelLit, a tool for comparing literary translations side-by-side;
  • BookTracks, a forum for creating soundtracks to novels;
  • Think'der, a mobile encyclopedia of thinkers and theorists, inspired by Tinder, a popular dating app;
  • (RE)write project, an online collaborative reimagining of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, currently offering six alternative storylines; and
  • Kvizsterical, an online collection of engaging literary quizzes, with topics ranging from literary monsters to authors snubbed for the Nobel Prize.

The course was developed by Petra Dierkes-Thrun, a lecturer in Stanford's comparative literature department, and Sebastian Thrun, a research professor in the Stanford computer science department and CEO of Udacity.

Further information about the course can be found on Stanford's site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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