I recently signed up for a free course over at Coursera - Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. For anyone curious about how this course works, I thought I would do a little description of my experience so far, with my understanding of what will happen in the upcoming days.
The first session started last Tuesday and our first homework (a short analytical essay about Grimm's Fairytales) is due this Tuesday. Afterward, peers will grade the essays and the professor (Eric Rabkin from the University of Michigan) will post a lecture about the week's unit. Peer feedback is due by Thursday, at which point the submissions for the next assignment will open.
The lecture happening after the writing assignment is a mixed blessing. This keeps the students' work from being influenced by the professor's views on the piece(s). Whereas I typically have a better time generating essay topics via interactive discussion, the online course doesn't offer quite the same kind of environment. There are, however, forums set up and a lot of active discussions on them. I have posted to a couple of threads, but not entered into any conversations yet.
Next week's unit is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. (It just so happens that I picked up this book as part of my summer reading and started reading it a couple of weeks ago.)
The course will continue unfolding with the same structure, moving through the different texts in the syllabus: Dracula (Stoker), Frankenstein (Shelley), Stores & Poems of Hawthorne & Poe, The Island of Dr. Moreau/The Invisible Man/"The Country of the Blind"/"The Star" (Wells), A Princess of Mars & Herland (Burroughs & Gilman), The Martian Chronicles (Bradbury), The Left Hand of Darkness (LeGuin), Little Brother (Doctorow). It's a pretty hefty reading list, but I'm going to do my best to keep up with it, in addition to starting the Fall semester. (Of course I'm taking a literature course there, too.)
And in September? I'm looking at also taking Modern & Contemporary American Poetry taught by Al Filreis from the University of Pennsylvania (still on Coursera). It is another 10 week course.