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Slapstick Focus of MOOC Developed by Ball State Faculty and Students

Does a study of the scene of Ricky Bobby flailing around in his BVDs trying to put out a non-existent fire in Talladega Nights have a place in higher education? That particular movie could surface alongside other Will Ferrell classics — as well as movies featuring Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball and others — in a massive open online course examining the history of slapstick comedy in film over the past century.

The MOOC is a joint initiative involving faculty and students from Ball State University along with cable staple Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The MOOC, open to anybody in the world with an internet connection, will be hosted on Canvas Network, which serves as a proving ground for the Instructure Canvas learning management system.

Much of the content and marketing collateral for the course were developed by a group of students working with Richard Edwards, a film expert and executive director of Ball State's Integrated Learning Institute. iLearn Research, as it's called, provides course development, professional development and research support services to the institution's faculty.

The students set up operations as a design and public relations agency to handle social media, graphic design and videography for the course. TCM and Canvas acted as their clients, sitting through presentations, setting expectations and awaiting deliverables. As the MOOC is delivered, the same students will continue building an online learning community through social media activities.

The six-week course will profile performances in 56 different movies. Participants will be able to watch those same movies during a September programming event on TCM, titled, "OUCH! A Salute to Slapstick," which will air on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the month.

This isn't the first time the three organizations have worked together. Previously, they developed a MOOC that explored film noir.

A version of the latest course will also be made available on Canvas Commons, allowing other instructors to reuse, remix and redistribute content, according to Hilary Melander, the manager of Canvas Network at Instructure. Canvas Commons is a learning object repository that lets educators find, import and share resources with others within their institution or with the public.

"Canvas has always looked for original ways to deliver innovative and meaningful learning experiences," noted Melander in a prepared statement. "Our edutainment MOOCs create opportunities for our partners and the public to connect and form uniquely passionate learning communities."

The MOOC begins on Sunday, August 28. According to Canvas, people can register at, beginning today.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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