Online Learning Update

December 24, 2012

How an online class in poetry changed a student’s life

Filed under: Online Learning News — Ray Schroeder @ 12:05 am

By Jacquie Posey, Penn Current

When Al Filreis, the Kelly Professor of English, agreed to teach his Modern & Contemporary American Poetry course to tens of thousands of students around the world through the online platform called Coursera, there was no way for him to know how profoundly it would change the life of one young man. There were, after all, 36,000 people enrolled in the class. Yet one student, a 17-year-old from New York named Daniel Bergmann, stood out. Not only because of the quality of his academic work (an essay Bergmann wrote on the poem “I taste a liquor never brewed” by Emily Dickinson is what first caught Filreis’ eye). But also because Bergmann is autistic, and he credits the Coursera class with helping him emerge from the isolation of his condition to become an active participant in the 10-week course on contemporary American poetry. “Please tell Coursera and Penn my story,” Bergmann wrote in an open letter to Filreis, thanking him for teaching him how to function in a larger, expanded, artistic world.

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