The curiosity of our study group at Class Central took us this time on The Journey of Writing and Scripts in Egypt, a course offered by Azza Ezzat and Ahmed Mansour from the Calligraphy Center of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BAx) on edX in 2017. This time, I made three course suggestions and the group chose this course. As the course is (currently) archived on edX – which means that there is no certificate available – the group hesitated at first but then we decided to explore the experience of an archived course.
Since its construction and then its opening in 2001, I was magically attracted to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which was built at the very same spot as the Great Library of Alexandria. When I was a teenager I even volunteered in my school holidays to guide visitors through the history and architecture of the library. Taking this course reminded me of this enriching experience.
How was the content of the course organised?
The course offers a comprehensive overview of the inscriptions and writings used throughout the long history of Egypt. The material is systematically organised and presented in chronological order in the four units, as Suparn mentions in his review. Interestingly, the instructors emphasized the role of multilingualism and cultural diversity, by showing that many languages were used freely in Egyptian society and in the administration of the country throughout the time.
How was the course delivered?
Nevertheless, we faced some challenges. For an introductory course, the speed of the content delivery was ambitious. Some study group members struggled with finishing. Others, including me, had to read the transcript while watching the videos. A reason might have been the frequent use of foreign terms with non-sufficient descriptions. To keep up with the course level and terminology, Rui suggested in our study group meeting to watch extra material on YouTube. Another open and free resource is the Digital Library of Inscriptions and Calligraphics by the BA. The additional resources definitely helped us to overcome our frustration and to stay on track. Although I have some background on the history of Egypt, I agree with Pat that some visual illustrations could have helped to better contextualise the course content. She writes, “With so many dates and locations in Egypt and the Middle East mentioned, more use of maps and timelines would have been very helpful.”
After each unit, we took a multiple-choice assessment and compared it with the correct answers. This helped estimate our own course progress, even though the assessment was not graded.
What is an archived course on edX?
Many edX courses that have ended continue to be available as archived courses. This means that the lectures and most of the material of the course are accessible. However, the course assignments cannot be submitted and the instructors are no longer active in the discussion forums. Certificates are not available for archived courses.
As of November 1st, 2020, edX had a total of 861 archived courses. This is almost 30% of the edX catalog. As we all are non-specialist learners for this course – and although there was a first moment of hesitation – it wasn’t a big deal in the end that the course didn’t offer a certificate. However, specialist learners or university students might prefer accomplishing the course with a score and a certificate.