MOOCs and Jewish Studies: A Match Made in Digital Heaven


Source: Association for Jewish Studies


People usually have puzzled reactions when I tell them that I’ve produced a MOOC on the Talmud. This term, it seems, is not that widely known. Juxtaposing “MOOC” with Talmud leads to the assumption that I’ve referred to some Hebrew or Aramaic concept. Typically, I follow my statement that I’ve produced a MOOC on the Talmud with a little Rashi-style commentary: “MOOC,” I’ll say, “stands for Massive Open Online Course.” MOOCs came of age in 2012, when three companies (edX, Udacity and Coursera) associated with premier private American universities began hosting online courses that combine university content with the bells and whistles of internet content delivery. In the past year, several Jewish Studies MOOCs have launched on both edX and Coursera. These include a couple of classes on the Hebrew Bible, a class on the Arch of Titus and my own course on the Talmud, The Talmud: A Methodological Introduction.

The Talmud MOOC has attracted interest from all over the world, and I have personally engaged with several international students who are not Jewish and were eager to study this material. A large percentage of the Talmud MOOC students, though, are Jewish adults who are hungry for the high quality intellectual fare that only academic Jewish Studies can provide. I think that an increased number of Jewish Studies MOOCs will increase the size of this audience as a larger segment of the public learns about online education. The continued production of MOOCs in Jewish Studies has the potential to weld a stronger bond between Jewish Studies and the larger Jewish community and ensure that the financial support continues in the next generation.

Read more at the Association for Jewish Studies website.

About "The Talmud: A Methodological Introduction" MOOC. 

The Talmud is one of the richest and most complicated works of literature the world has ever known. Since being composed around 1500 years ago it has inspired not only religious reverence but significant intellectual engagement. In this course learners will be introduced to the unique characteristics of this text and the challenges that inhere in studying it while studying a chapter of the Talmud. Students of the course can expect to develop an appreciation for how the Talmud works and why it continues to inspire religious and intellectual devotion. They will be challenged to employ critical reading skills and to analyze legal and historical concepts.

Updated: Oct. 13, 2016