The Ancient Greek Hero is a survey of ancient Greek literature focusing on classical concepts of the hero and how they can inform our understanding of the human condition. Since 1978, Professor Greg Nagy has taught the course to undergraduates at Harvard College and to students at the Harvard Extension School. In March of 2013, The Ancient Greek Hero (“HeroesX”) became one of HarvardX’s first offerings, as well as one of the first humanities courses to be offered on the edX platform.
HeroesX is organized around 24 “Hours,” a term that emerged from the 24 hours of classroom time in the residential version of the Ancient Greek Hero. Each Hour in HeroesX includes an overview lecture from Prof. Nagy and a conversation among Nagy and various members of the HeroesX “Board of Readers,” scholars and students who work with Nagy to interpret and comment on the texts. Each week also includes a set of selected passages for “close reading.” These passages are read in performance by a student, and discussed by Nagy and his colleagues. In some Hours, ancient texts are paired with modern media, including film.
This report describes one of the first HarvardX courses, HeroesX. The report was prepared by researchers external to the course team, based on examination of the courseware, analyses of the data collected by the edX platform, and interviews and consultations with the course faculty and team members.
The report proceeds in six parts. We begin by describing the goals of the HeroesX course team, in the belief that any learning environment should be evaluated in the context of its intents, values, and vision. We then describe the structure of HeroesX, followed by an examination of the participants who registered for the project. With an understanding of what the course team created and the learners who took an interest in the course, we then turn to examining how participants interacted with the resources, including their patterns of assessment-taking, persistence, and overall activity. We end by examining the limits of our understanding of student learning in these online courses, and the future directions of the HeroesX project.
Our hope is that this report and its companion reports—including a synthetic multiple-course report and other reports from the first HarvardX courses—will inspire new avenues of research and provide insights to future course designers in designing the next generation of open online courses.