England in the Time of King Richard III - a review of the online course
Reviewed by Andy C. McMillin
I first heard about this class over on Facebook, via Sharon Kay Penman’s Fan Club. I hopped on it instantly. The White Queen was over, and I was dying for a dose of medieval fun and education. My work and semester in school is primarily medical oriented. I was thriving for something that I most desired, I needed my medieval history fix.
The course is taught through Future Learn (www.futurelearn.com), which is in beta, and a distance-learning program that has been launched worldwide. All the courses are completely free. Perfect for those on a budget, yet want to learn and keep learning. All you need is internet access. You can even log in and do your course work on iPhone or iPad. Each course lists the time commitment each week if you wish to pursue the course. This is very conveniently if you have a busy life style, such as I. This course was about a two-hour commitment, perfect for me. With the holidays rolling in full force, it was perfect timing.
Deidre O’Sullivan taught my course from the School of Archeology and Ancient History who was one of the consulting professors on the entire Richard III project through the University of Leicester. The class started November 25, 2013 and ended this week. (This was including a 2 week break over the holidays) The course was planned to discuss Richard III and England during the time of his reign and death. It did this and then some. Weekly emails covered and gave an outline of what that week’s topic would go over. Also in the email if we had time for further reading it was also listed as such, with recommended books. Books to be read were entirely optional. It covered, the economy, social aspects, different social status groups, growth of population and its impact on economy and the end of feudalism, the impact of the plague, politics, the discovery of Richard my first favorite bit, and then second food of the times. I found the economy section quite interesting. It really puts in perspective how things have changed, and how money was valued then as compared to now. The part of the course that covered food was just around the holidays, so making mincemeat pies had perfect timing for home and the course. It was great fun. The course also has a great end section on the discovery of Richard III and a great discussion and interviews about the DNA discoveries and the science behind the legwork of the team that found the king.
On average, even with the insanely busy schedule I have currently, I was able to keep up with the course work just fine. On average I completed all the reading and discussion in one night. I just cranked it out with furor.
One thing of note is that you do not need a background, as I do in medieval history, to take this course. It is geared as an introductory course and perfect as such, yet also good for learning just a little more. During my studies, we did not cover much of the War of the Roses, or much after 1450 AD. So this course was quiet a treat for me. It greatly added to my current knowledge and the course will defiantly help me with my future studies and writings.
The course is planned to be offered again this year, 2014. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in medieval history or Richard III. This is a class you do not want to miss. It is a perfect window back in time. The two hours a week is a must, and something you really should not miss. Next course for me is Shakespeare and his World. But if they offer another Richard III course, that for sure will be on my list as well.
Andy C. McMillin is a medievalist and an artist and hold a BA degree in Medieval Studies from UC Davis. She writes on her blog Inspire about medieval topics. You can follow Andi on Twitter @pinkiecat7