Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been proliferating in recent years. While there are concerns about how much learners engage in and learn from these online courses, these initiatives propel a new movement that opens valuable resources once only accessible by selected college students. In a similar spirit, the Big History Project, started by Australian professor David Christian and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is an exciting resource for learning about history but with a special content focus for middle and high school learners.
In addition to its unique high school focus, this course also presents a unparalleled interdisciplinary approach to learning about history. Fundamentally, it addresses several big questions: What is the origin of the universe? How does our solar system work? More importantly, how do the answers to these questions relate not only to science but humanity? With a useful timeline and rich multimedia, the Big History Project aims to provide a framework of all knowledge and help high school students and anyone who is interested see the world and themselves from the "big picture" perspective.
Although this project has successfully recruited an increasing number of educators and students from across the U.S. in the past three years, it also draws critiques from history education experts. Sam Wineburg, a leading history education scholar from Stanford, for instance, points out that the Big History Project does not prepare students with essential skills to read historical resources critically.
What do you think about this initiative? Will students benefit from this new free online course? Share your thoughts with other educators on Vialogues.
Excerpts from the discussion
@00:39 johnlee: Feeling himself as a part of something huge and wondrous drives Professor Christian to explore big history and later develop this course project.
@01:36 Sappho: Some people have expressed concern about this in high school. It seems fine at the college level when you are exposed to a number of views, but in high school it may be over emphasizing science when history is an important discipline in its own right. some people I've spoken to have expressed concern about it.