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Join Harvard Professor Gregory Nagy on a 24-“Hour” journey that lasts a lifetime, and learn how the heroes of ancient Greece can help us to understand and reflect upon modern cultures. Study alongside Harvard students in this MOOC that mirrors and engages with the on-campus Harvard class.

The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours (also known as HeroesX) is a HarvardX MOOC that introduces participants to the literature and heroes of ancient Greece while referencing a wide variety of cultures, times, and mediums—from epic, to opera, to sci-fi classics such as Blade Runner.

Nagy, the Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, designed HeroesX to offer the same rich collection of readings and resources as covered in his long-running residential course at Harvard. Readings include the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey; tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; songs of Sappho and Pindar; and dialogues of Plato. The upcoming session begins on August 26. Introductory units and the discussion board are already open.

Those who enroll will quickly discover a different kind of MOOC. As in other edX offerings, participants watch videos, complete online self-assessments, and earn certificates, but Nagy and his team are particularly dedicated to nurturing “content, conversation, and community”—and to collaborating with colleagues and participants to enrich the HeroesX experience. The difference is apparent everywhere—from the collaborative annotation tools used to practice the “art of slow reading,” to the discussion board, where a whole team of professors, researchers, and Community Teaching Assistants engage in dialogue with participants under the close guidance of Leonard Muellner, Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies at Brandeis University.

This fall, the release of HeroesX content will return to tracking the semester schedule of the Harvard College course, as coordinated by Head Teaching Fellow Keith Stone; participating Harvard students will use the HeroesX content as their textbook and be encouraged to engage with the broader Heroes community via the discussion board and the collaborative annotation tools. During its three previous runs, the ever-evolving Heroes project has attracted a dedicated following, with thousands enrolling in and completing the MOOC multiple times.

Why would anyone engage in the same MOOC more than once?

Claudia Filos, Executive Producer for HeroesX, explains: “We like to say that Hour 24 is not the last of the 24 Hours but rather just the beginning. Works of ancient literature such as the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey are part of a highly perfected system of communication, developed over thousands of years of performer-audience interaction. By the time participants complete the twenty-four “Hours” of content in this project, they are beginning to tap into that reality. The truth is, this content supports a lifetime of study and exploration. So we are thinking way beyond the confines of a typical MOOC. Our goal is to help learners develop reading techniques and support systems—social and intellectual—to enrich their entire lives.”

That’s an ambitious goal, but the results so far are encouraging. The first version of the project, which opened in 2013, developed such a vibrant community that participants asked for additional content and ways for continuing their conversations after the MOOC closed. In response, Nagy and his team identified about twenty “superstar” participants and invited them to collaborate with Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies, where Nagy is Director.

Together, Nagy and the Hour 25 Community Development Team launched a companion project, called Hour 25. This open-ended online community offers access to a supportive network of life-long learners and a vibrant schedule of peer-led study groups, academic dialogues, discussion forums, and learning resources—on topics related to ancient literature and so much more. To date over 1,400 HeroesX participants have enrolled at Hour 25.

Nagy and the Hour 25 participants hope to develop new readings of ancient texts and, ultimately, new learning models that can be applied to help redefine MOOCs and enhance online education. Learners who enroll in HeroesX gain access to this community and may collaborate with Nagy, Muellner, Filos, Stone, and the rest of the HeroesX team.

Sarah Scott, a technical writer from Scotland, and Janet Mayragul Ozsolak, an educator from Rockland County, New York, are two of the aforementioned “superstar” participants who have become HeroesX team members. Both distinguished themselves in the discussion board during the first version of the project and were invited to join the Community Development Team. Currently, Ozsolak manages the HeroesX social media efforts and is the Co-Editor and Project Manager for Hour 25, while Scott is the Associate Producer of HeroesX and the Co-Executive Editor of the HeroesX Sourcebook.

Registration via edX is open to all. HarvardX learners may explore the content (free) or pursue an ID-verified certificate (additional fee applies). There is also still time to register with Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education to receive credit for work done through HeroesX (additional fee applies).

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