The Degree of Freedom Curriculum

So what will taking the equivalent of four years worth of college classes in twelve months entail, other than all-nighters, cold pizza, and bull sessions at various virtual and (I’m hoping), actual coffee shops?

For starters, I need a framework to determine what courses this project will include.  And I’ve chosen for this framework the same course distribution and concentration/major requirements I had when I originally went to college (a set of requirements which is still pretty much in place at most liberal arts institutions).

These include:

  • Meeting a set of distribution goals during my “Freshman” and “Sophomore” years that ensure exposure to a broad range of subjects.
  • Taking enough entry-level and high-level classes within my field of concentration to meet major requirements by the end of my “Senior” year (i.e., by December)

Since the total number of classes needed to “graduate” will be 32 full-credit courses, this breaks down to eight such classes per year (or, in my case, every three months).

To meet Freshman and Sophomore year distribution goals (I just decided to forgo the quote marks), I’m going to be using the 4:4:2 formula which means that among the sixteen courses that I’ll be taking in the first half of the year, 10 must be spread between the following categories:

  • Science and Mathematics
  • Social Sciences
  • Humanities

The 4:4:2 model means I will need to take at least four courses in two of the above listed categories by the end of June, and at least two in the remaining category.

For my major (philosophy, in this case), I’ll be using guidelines that seem to be relatively consistent across different undergraduate philosophy programs I’ve scanned which include taking ten courses within the field that include at least two intermediate-level and two advanced-level classes.

Since my major curricula will be self-selected, it may range a bit more than traditional programs which ask students to concentrate in one particular area (such as the history of philosophy or philosophy of mind).  But I shall do my best to try to put together a coherent program.  (As I’ll describe later in the week, finding enough high-level classes within a MOOC world that is still focused on survey courses will be one of the biggest challenges in pulling this whole thing off.)

Regarding counting credits, I’m going to treat any course where subject coverage and/or workload makes it equivalent to a full semester undergraduate class as counting for one full-credit (I’m avoiding the use of credit hours since those might not be intuitive to all readers of this blog).

In some cases, such as shorter courses or courses that fall outside a typical liberal arts curriculum (such as computer, business, or – potentially – art and athletic courses) I’ll be assigning those classes the value of a half or (in a few instances) a quarter credit.

Since the focus of this curriculum will be liberal arts, I plan to never include more than one full credit per year that falls outside of typical liberal arts mix.  But because I want to expose readers to a broad range of online educational options, it seemed worth adding a little flexibility to the schedule to allow you to hear about online learning programs that might not typically be discussed in conversations about MOOCs.

Next Up – The Freshman year lineup

3 Responses to The Degree of Freedom Curriculum

  1. CJ Fearnley March 30, 2013 at 5:58 am #

    When I majored in Philosophy at Binghamton University in the late 1980s, I had to take a course in “Plato and Aristotle” and another in “Descartes, Hume, and Kant” (it appears that Binghamton still requires these two history of Philosophy courses, UPenn also requires two courses in the History of Philosophy as does Temple University). I cannot find any comparable courses on-line. There are plenty of courses on Plato, Aristotle and Kant. But I don’t see any that cover Descartes and Hume. Open Culture’s List of Philosophy courses is the most comprehensive resource that I am aware of. There are many, many great philosophy courses on-line, but you will probably end up weak in the history of philosophy which appears to be required at all three schools that I checked.

    • DegreeofFreedom March 31, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

      Thanks for the advice. While I am still concerned that I might not find the higher-level courses I need to complete the equivalent of a major, I have a feeling that between existing sources I know about, the ones you’ve pointed me towards, and some that may be coming online later in the year that there will be enough material out there to either find something or piece together something that will adequately cover these requirements.


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