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Developing politics knowledge beyond the classroom. Part two: MOOCs

Mike McCartney

12th November 2020

Related to a previous entry, equally this could be entitled 'Strengthening a UCAS application. Part two: MOOCs'

This is the second part of an entry about developing politics knowledge beyond the classroom. And demonstrating to university admissions tutors that you have gone beyond the A Level syllabus - either in terms of depth of study, or reading beyond its narrow confines.

Here is a course I have completed that I massively recommend. It covers in detail many parts of the US element of the A Level course, so if you are following that option it is invaluable. It also covers areas of US politics, like public policy, that are not covered. So in a sense it deepens AND widens knowledge. Bt clearly very useful to those studying the global option at A Level, as a means of showing a wider interest.

Details of the course delivered by Thomas Patterson, Professor of Government at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. In other words, his credentials are extremely impressive! See here:

Here are course details:

This is the video for the Thomas Patterson delivered course, form YouTube, if you can’t find it on the edx site:

My personal view, for what its worth, is that it’s one of the best educational experiences I’ve had. The quality of production is very high, and the material was almost always pretty stimulating.

I haven’t found anything on the UK front, so if anyone out there has knowledge of one, I’d be interested to find out, and share it.

Another I’ve completed is by the same MOOC provider, and as it happens, the same higher education institution, is this one on cities. Like, the previous one, I can’t say I was ever bored.

Urban governance is a particular interest, and so here it looks like I was going more in depth.

This is the link:

If you are studying Politics on combination with Economics, this is well worth a look. It is delivered by one of the most prominent academics in the field of development, Professor Paul Collier:

There are myriad options out there. Some are better than others. Don’t be afraid to try a selection. And if a particular MOOC it isn’t to your taste after a couple of modules, move on. Don’t cry over split milk/be afraid of cutting your losses. For example, I did one on Catalonia that I found to be average (not so much the presentation, but the content), but it was fairly short, so completed it. But, by contrast, another on diet, exercise and physiology was too hard-going, so, well, life’s too short.

At the minute I’m doing one on Pop Art. The production quality is very good. But at a busy time of the academic year, I’m finding it hard to fit it in. What relevance is a MOOC on the last three subjects I’ve mentioned to an admissions tutor deciding on a Politics application, by the way? Well, I would argue that it shows you are interested in learning. Not just for the purposes of getting a piece of paper after three or four years. But for its own sake. Might they find that attractive? I’ll let you decide.

Anyway, good luck with your MOOC experiences - there is a lot to enjoy!

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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