Teaching Cultural Anthropology as a Community-Building MOOC-Style Course

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This post highlights the introductory cultural anthropology syllabus prepared by Rebecca Howes-Mischel and Megan Tracy, which they organized in similar style to a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). This syllabus and activities they designed for the class are also featured in a longer post outlining their collaborative and community-building process within their cultural anthropology course: “Creating Community in an Asynchronous Online Class.”

Cultural Anthropology, Rebecca Howes-Mischel and Megan Tracy, James Madison University

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology is a staple in the curriculum of most anthropology departments. Reimagining this course in the 2020–2021 academic year of the pandemic enabled us to reorganize these large lecture courses as asynchronous, applied, and community-centered. Course design focused on restructuring the class to meet our and our students’ needs for both community and manageable workloads, meeting both the pandemic moment and offering a model for the future. We prioritized first year students' need for community in a brand new environment by centering an ethos of collaboration in both our pedagogical design and their learning experience. The course is geared toward general education and nonspecialist students and provides an overview of anthropology’s key methodologies and concepts, while providing examples of their applications outside the discipline. Assignments are experience- and community-driven, and they culminate in a creative unessay crystalizing the key takeaways of the course: practice being more observant to the world, mobilize and take on a practice of critical thinking that acknowledges that there’s no single way to be a person in the world across time and place, and, in sum, continually challenge the things they thought they already knew.

Download Rebecca Howes-Mischel and Megan Tracy’s syllabus