‘Heritage Under Threat’ , an online course developed by the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Global Heritage and Development, is among the 21 best MOOCs for a general public according to New York Magazine.
New York Magazine chose the 21 most beginner-friendly MOOCs. They are open to all. The magazine also interviewed students who had taken the MOOCs.
Heritage under Threat
The Heritage Under Threat MOOC (followed by over 5,800 learners, rated 4.9/5) was developed by the Centre for Global Heritage and Development, a collaboration between the universities of Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam. Swedish-Somali archaeologist Sada Mire, who was working at Leiden University at the time, developed and teaches the MOOC. Cultural heritage around the world is under threat in a number of ways, explains Mara de Groot from the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden University and coordinator of the Centre for Global Heritage and Development. ‘It is accidentally or intentionally damaged or even destroyed in wars or conflicts, as with the ruins of Palmyra in Syria, which were destroyed by IS (see banner photo). Alternatively, there is no money for conservation. But a greater, less visible problem, is how much heritage disappears unnoticed because of construction work and agricultural developments.’
Raising awareness was the first goal
The MOOC begins with the question of what heritage is, before moving on to strategies for preserving our cultural heritage. ‘We wanted to raise awareness of heritage at risk in a wide public, including people who have limited access to a university,’ says De Groot.
The MOOC teaches students what heritage is, why it is often claimed by groups and how closely linked it is to group identities. ‘We thought the topic would interest many people. Sada also has a large network in East Africa, and managed to inspire many of her contacts there to follow the MOOC. We didn’t do any research into whether the MOOC did actually contribute to heritage protection, but awareness of the threat to cultural heritage can help people identify risks and speak out against them.’
Learn and enjoy
Mazuba Kapambwe, a podcast host from Zimbabwe who followed the course, wanted to find out more about how to protect heritage sites in Zimbabwe. She learned a lot about how to do this, she told New York Magazine. ‘But I also enjoyed the fantastic footage and can only praise Dr Mire’s thoughtful teaching style. The course showed heritage under threat around the world. There were also many guest appearances by officials from UNESCO, for instance, who spoke about their work to protect heritage sites. I really did learn a lot.’