An Evolution in Liberal Arts Learning: Wellesley College Announces Introduction to Human Evolution as First edX Course

MOOCs span STEM, history, sociology, and Shakespeare

May 22, 2013, 10:47 ET from Wellesley College

WELLESLEY, Mass., May 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Wellesley College, the first liberal arts college to join the Harvard-MIT free online learning collaborative edX, announced its initial courses: Introduction to Human Evolution (Fall 2013, taught by Adam Van Arsdale); Was Alexander Great? The Life, Leadership, and Legacies of History's Greatest Warrior (Spring 2014, taught by Guy MacLean Rogers); Introduction to Global Sociology (Fall 2014, taught by Smitha Radhakrishnan); and Shakespeare: On the Page and In Performance (Fall 2014, taught by Yu Jin Ko and Diego Arciniegas). Registration is open for all four courses.

The offerings represent some of Wellesley's most popular courses, along with the College's breadth of disciplines. "The strength of Wellesley's faculty and curriculum is reflected in these initial courses," said Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly. "Wellesley looks forward to contributing to, and helping to shape the conversation about the role of online education, especially in promoting the liberal arts."

According to Ravi Ravishanker, chief information officer and associate dean of WellesleyX, faculty members are exploring ways to experiment with massive open online course (MOOC) technology to enhance classroom teaching. "The challenge is to harmonize the capabilities of the new technology with the academic rigor at Wellesley's core," said Ravishanker. "Connecting learners to field experts from all over the world, as well as virtual face-to-face discussions, are just some ways in which our faculty are thinking about enhancing WellesleyX courses. Wellesley faculty are eager to learn and experiment with some of edX's advanced assessment tools, which, through interactivity and instant feedback, can become even more powerful additions to the learning process."

Plans for Introduction to Human Evolution include virtual guided trips to important archaeological sites and an interactive primer on how scientists measure skeletal remains. The course will also be taught on campus to some 20 Wellesley students. This MOOC/brick-and-mortar teaching model will provide the opportunity for Wellesley students to interact with the online learners, and vice versa. College officials hope this will lead to rich discussions that defy the traditional boundaries of the campus classroom.

Known for intellectual rigor and a track record of cultivating women leaders in every arena, Wellesley College has been the preeminent liberal arts college for women since 1875. All WellesleyX courses will be open to anyone with an Internet connection, regardless of gender.

Contact: Sofiya Cabalquinto at or 781-283-3321

SOURCE Wellesley College