Go to the University of Reddit

A Reddit-style online university offers some unique courses, sans karma points.

Trent M. Kays

 

Online and open learning opportunities are abundant and spreading like weeds in an untreated lawn. This shouldn’t be surprising: The digital age has created more spaces for these opportunities than any other point in human history. They’re everywhere. Massive open online courses — or MOOCs — seem to be ubiquitous when discussing online learning and education. It can’t be helped. MOOCs are in vogue, and the requisite terminology creates an opening for redefining conceptions of learning and education.

Coursera, Udacity and other MOOC providers seemingly offer free, informal learning, and while this can be considered notable, it offers an unstable platform on which to gauge parity. So much of the discussion on informal learning in the digital age depends on context and definition. Often, we expect too much from a platform or a place of learning, or perhaps we assume that if something works in one context, it will work in another. This simply isn’t the case.

The current MOOC fever has given rise to other online learning spaces. Online learning is a well-worn idea; however, there are new incarnations every day. Cue the University of Reddit.

Yes, you read that correctly: the University of Reddit. While the website technically isn’t affiliated with the social news and entertainment website Reddit.com, it has adopted a similar name and platform. Except instead of up- or down-voting links and news stories, users rank potential courses. Users from Reddit populate the University of Reddit website, though being a member of the former isn’t a prerequisite for participation in the latter.

What type of classes can one expect to take at the University of Reddit? Well, there are a host of classes on the website to please most people. For example: Introduction to Filmmaking, Introduction to C++, Wet Shaving 101 and, of course, How to Make a MOOC.

However, those classes don’t even begin to examine the potential of this platform. Perhaps the most important course on the site is the most imperative to everyday college students — Introduction to Magic: The Gathering. This course introduces participants to the concepts and strategy of this popular trading card game, which are important life skills.

I’m being a bit facetious. I’m happy there are courses like these because they provide a space for informal learning on a platform that lets users decide what stays and what goes. This is most certainly a drawback of the platform, especially if an awesome course gets pushed aside for a better-named course. Though, in many ways, these are the types of courses best suited for Redditors. You wouldn’t find a course on “StarCraft II” strategy in the military science department at a typical university.

Maybe this is the future of higher education: completely participatory, user-generated and open to anyone with an Internet connection and a computer. Users learn from other users, and while the current University of Reddit idea may not be suited for formal learning, it certainly can serve as a supplement to it. Moreover, it’s not all that different from the informal learning that happens in our day-to-day lives. We learn how to do things all the time outside of a classroom. That will never change.

At the very least, perhaps the University of Reddit can teach us how to deal with the +4 Shadowmage that roams the Dean’s office.