Syllabus (Summer, 2016)

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Week 1: Game on! The history and theory of MMOs

Reading for Week 1

  • • J.R.R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring
    • Read the “Prologue, Concerning Hobbits, and other matters” and Book One of the novel.
  • • Jesper Juul’s Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds
  • • Constantine P. Cavafy’s poem “Ithaca”

Available for free in the original Greek and several English translations at “The Official Website of the Cavafy Archive.” In the videos, we have used the translation by Daniel Mendelsohn:

Gameplay for Week 1 (required for Honors students; optional for all others)

Download and install Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO)–available at or from Steam at If you are already playing LOTRO, feel free to continue with your present account, but the following servers are recommended for those who are just starting (or who want to create a new character to play along with your classmates). There are Coursera kinships on each of the servers listed below, which will have special events scheduled for the course:

· Gladden (kinship: Vicarious Universe)· Landroval (role-playing recommended—kinship: Courserrim)· Laurelin (role-playing required, many European players— kinship: Course of the Ring)· Arkenstone (kinship: Eagles of Thorondor)

Each of the servers has a chat channel especially devoted to the class. To join the channel, click in the chat box, then type: /joinchannel coursera. If this is the first chat channel you have joined, you can switch to that channel by typing: /1 [add a space after /1 and you are ready to send your first message].

Once you have created a character, complete the Tutorial and the Intro quests. You will know that you have completed the Intro when a NPC (non-player character) in the introductory area asks if you are ready to travel to the next zone (the Shire for Hobbits, Archet for humans, Thorin’s Gate for Dwarves, Celendim for Elves). When you get out of the Intro area, be sure to turn in your quest to complete the sequence of introductory quests. If you are an experienced player of LOTRO, enjoy the game for week! No need to create a new character just for the course.

Week 2: LOTRO and Tolkien

Reading for Week 2

  • • Finish J.R.R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.
    • This takes you to end of the first volume of Tolkien’s trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.
  • • Robert Browning’s poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

Available free online at the University of Toronto Libraries’ archive, “Representative Poetry Online,” where you will find helpful notes on the poem and line numbers to orient you as you watch the videos:

You might also want to listen to one of these YouTube recordings of the poem: or Sometimes poetry seems easier to understand when you hear it read out loud.

Gameplay for Week 2 (required for Honors students; optional for all others):

MMOs are social games. The existence of an online community in a persistent world creates opportunities for emergent narrative experiences and gameplay that go beyond simply completing predefined quests to advance your character. This week’s in-game activities ask you to explore (or if you are a more experienced player, help others to explore) the social world of LOTRO. You have two options for completing the in-game assignment.

1. If you are in one of the four Coursera kinships (Vicarious Universe on Gladden, Courserrim on Landroval, Coursera on Laurelin, or Eagles of Thorondor on Arkenstone), participate in the games planned for that week. Take a screenshot of yourself and some of your kin mates at the games. Note: You will need a screenshot to complete the peer assessment due this week for the Distinction Track.


2. If you are not a member of one of the Coursera kinships, you should join a kinship and have a conversation with another member of the kinship in /kinship chat. Then travel to your kinship house and take a screenshot of yourself in front of or inside it. If your kinship does not have a house, travel to one of the housing areas on your own and explore. Find an interesting place to take a screenshot of your character in the kinship area. If you are an experienced player who is already in a kinship, visit your existing kinship house and take a screenshot there. You do not need to join a new kinship to fulfill this assignment. Note: You will need a screenshot to complete the peer assessment due this week for the Distinction Track.

(Tips on taking screenshots: Try to find an attractive backdrop or creative pose when you take your screenshot. Be sure to face the camera and zoom in to the distance you want to frame your character in the way you want. If you need instructions on how to take screenshots on a Windows or a Mac machine, click on the following link:

Week 3: Romance and realism

Reading for Week 3

John Keats’s poem “La Belle Dame sans Merci.” Available free online with helpful annotations at the “Poetry Foundation”: Feel free to read the “Poem Guide” on this page for further discussion of Keats’s poem. An audio version of the poem is available at or

Film for Week 3

Watch Peter Jackson’s movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (the extended version is recommended, but not required).

Gameplay for Week 3 (required for Honors students; optional for all others)

Join a “chicken run” from Michel Delving to Rivendell. Kinships on many servers have already begun volunteering to escort you on this perilous run. We hope each server will organize one or more chicken runs during this week because you will need high-level support to make it safely to Rivendell. But you do not need to complete the Chicken Run to receive full credit on the assignment, nor do you have to find a group. Just become a chicken and have fun, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Take a screenshot of yourself on the chicken run—students on the Distinction Track will need to post it to get credit as part of the peer assessment assignment in Week 4—and, believe me, you will want to have a memento of this event! If you don’t see a group organizing a chicken run on your server, you should take the initiative yourself (be sure to invite some high-level friends along to escort you!). But if you can’t get a group to escort you, do not be concerned. You can try it all by yourself. You probably won’t make it, but you don’t have to go all the way to the Last Homely House to fulfill the assignment. Just making an attempt will give you credit. A solo chicken run is terrifying and funny at the same time; a group chicken run promises to be truly hilarious!

Week 4: Space and time in three media: novel, film, game

Reading for Week 4

Read the dictionary entries in Dino Felluga’s invaluable Introduction to Narratology. Read the definitions of the following terms found on

  • • Discourse and Story
  • • Fabula and Sjuzhet
  • Also read “Important concepts in Genette’s narratology” from the Wikipedia entry on Gerard Genette, paying particular attention to the concepts of:
  • • Order
  • • Duration
  • • Frequency

Gameplay for Week 4 (required for Honors students; optional for all others)

Find the Forsaken Inn in the Lone Lands then try to reach the top of Weathertop. The Ranger Candaith has several level-22 quests, including Book 2, Chapter 5 of the Epic Quest Line, “Retake Weathertop,” that will take you to the top, but you do not need to have accepted any quest to complete the course assignment. (Quests make the trip to the summit of Weathertop more fun, but it is still a challenge to find the way up to the top if you have never been there before.)

If you do not have a character at level 22, you will probably have to join a group to fight your way to the top of Weathertop. You do not have to succeed in reaching the top, but you must try. Experienced players should go to the Lone Lands and form a group to help newer players reach the summit of Weathertop. It would be best if you ran “Retake Weathertop” again, but that is not required.

Note: One of the options for completing the Distinction Track peer review assignment will be to post a YouTube video of your assent to Weathertop with a voiceover narration comparing the game’s remediation to the film and the novel’s versions. Be sure to read the peer review assignment and prepare your screen capture software ahead of time if you plan to complete this option for the assignment. Free screen capture software is listed in Supplementary Materials.

Week 5: Pwning Spenser’s The Faerie Queene

Reading for Week 5

Read the first Canto of Book III. Canto 1 is 603 lines long (you do not need to read the 5-stanza long dedication at the beginning–start reading Book III with “Canto 1”).

Available free online at:

The archaic language can make the poem seem difficult, particularly for non-native English speakers or for people with little experience reading Elizabethan poetry. If you are having trouble, I recommend that you read the prose summary of the book called “The Legend of Britomart” at: before you try the poetry. After a little practice, most readers get the hang of it and find the action-packed story fun.

There is an audio version of Book III, Canto 1 at LibriVox: (36:24 minutes in length)

Gameplay for Week 5 (required for Honors students; optional for all others)

You must be level 20 to complete this assignment. If you have not made it to level 20 during week 5 of the course, remember that you can take this quiz any time up until 7 June 2015. It is best to complete the assignment during week 5 since more classmates will be looking for fellowships to do this assignment with you, but if you cannot reach level 20 in time, you can still finish the assignment during the next several weeks.

Join a Great Barrow group (sometimes advertised in Looking for Fellowship [LFF] chat as GB), and attempt the quest “Thadur.” You do not have to successfully complete the quest, although I imagine that you would prefer that outcome to having everyone in your group die (often called having your group “wipe”).

If you are an experienced player, form a level-20 to level-30 Great Barrow group, and help one or more players complete the quest (if no one will join your low-level group, run Thadur at whatever level you want).

Explanatory Note #1: This quest is not the Epic quest for Book I, Chapter 11, “Othrongroth,” which Tom Bombadil gives you. It is a quest that you can pick up in Bree Lands or a repeatable instance accessed through the Instance Finder.

Explanatory Note #2: You do not need to post a screen shot or video for this game play assignment. There will be questions about your experience in the Great Barrow in the Distinction Track quiz.


Week 6: The Holy Grail: A good end game

Reading for Week 6

Read Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses.” The poem is available free online at The Poetry Foundation at and, with notes, at the University of Toronto Libraries’ archive, “Representative Poetry Online,” at An audio version is available at or

We also recommend that you watch the final movies in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, if you haven’t already. They are called The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Note: these films are not required.

Gameplay for Week 6 (required for Honors students; optional for all others)

The in-game activity for our final week was suggested by players on the Forums!

Play a game of tag at the Festival Grounds north of Bree (25.6S, 50.9W). For tag, you need at least one other person to play. All you have to do to start a game of tag is go to the coordinates above and speak with the NPC who will start the game. You do not need to take a screenshot of the game for this week’s quiz (you should concentrate on running!)

34 thoughts on “Syllabus (Summer, 2016)”

    1. Hello Mr. Clayton! This is my very first course with Coursera and my first online game-play class. My boyfriend and I are big fans of Role-playing games even though I am a bit of a newbie. He’s real big into League of Legends right now, so I am looking forward to learning about this new ‘world’ of online gaming!! I’m excited for this class and I can’t wait to get started!

  1. Hi Jay! Will there be a hashtag for the course? I’m taking it the second time (no thanks to you for getting me addicted to LOTRO, haha) and I’m planning to publish a blog post next week with some tips about LOTRO for Tolkien fans who are newbie gamers and planning to take the course. I’d like to hashtag it on Twitter appropriately when I post.

    1. Greetings, Avory. Yes, the hashtag for the course is #gamemooc (same as our Twitter account for the course: @gamemooc). I look forward to reading your blog post!


  2. I’m enrolled in this course, but I’m new to the game. Can I play the game on my own terms and just explore a little while still taking the class? I’d like to take a path where playing is not required but I am still able to do it.

    1. Yes, it’s fine to play the game on your own terms. LOTRO is great for players who just want to poke around a bit, exploring the landscape of Middle Earth. There is no requirement to advance to a certain level or do any of the in-game activities unless you plan to take the Distinction Track. But I do think you would enjoy getting a taste of the game. Best of all: it’s free!


  3. I have a lvl 54 character in the Dwarrowdelf server. By staying on my current server, will I be able to connect to the chat channels?

    1. There is a Coursera chat channel on the Dwarrowdelf server, but there will probably be few members of the class active on that server. There were several from the first time the course was offered, and some of them are still on the channel, but most new players will join one of the four recommended servers. You should feel free, however, to stay on Dwarrowdelf if you like since you have made quite a bit of progress with your character there.

      Best of luck!

      1. Thank you for replying to me. I think it’s better to create a new character on one of those servers then.

  4. Hello! I have characters on both Landroval and Meneldor, and am an officer in a kinship on each one. I’ve been playing since 2008, but only came to Landroval in 2013 to see the differences in how the RP aspect affects the game world experience (which became strongly apparenty attending the in game event Weatherstock a couple weeks ago).

    My timezone is also Pacific time. Historically, do you feel it would be better to do the course on Landroval or Meneldor given my time zone, or does it make a difference? I’d like to ready a character for then that is around the range of the other students.

    Thank you,
    Shannon Muir

    Officer – Exiles of Numenor – Meneldor
    Officer – Bree’s Company – Landroval

    1. Hi, Shannon. Thanks for your comment.

      I’m not sure how to choose between these two servers. Each of them have large, dedicated communities, which plan to stage major events in conjunction with the course. One thing you might try to help you make up your mind: join the Coursera chat channel and log on at your usual hours to see which has the most active players at that time of day. Either one you choose, you can’t go wrong!


      1. Thank you for your answer! I have a minstrel a range I’m comfortable with on Meneldor for this course, and readying one on Landroval as well.

        The one thing I regret is that I will miss the games on July 26th but glad I can take advantage of option 2 since I have a kin already. Unfortunately that date conflicts with San Diego Comic-Con International weekend, and I need to be there Saturday for professional reasons. So while my grade won’t suffer, my chance to meet other students will!


  5. My friend and I are taking this class for the first time. We were very excited to hear about this. Both of us have high-ish level (20-35 lvl) characters on Elendilmir server. We also have a open Kinship for those of you who aren’t in one on the server. Kinship is Dur Erynwaith. Looking forward to helping people with the Chicken Run! Haven’t done one in at least a year! Contact Andova or Sarafia on the server for help.

    1. Glad to have you in the course, and thanks for offering in-game help to fellow LOTRO players. There is a chat channel in Elendilmir that you can join to find others on the server who are taking the course or took it last time around. Just type: /joinchannel coursera

      You can switch to the channel by typing the assigned number after a slash mark and hitting the space bar. For example, if the server assigned your Coursera channel the #1, you would type /1 and a space.

  6. Gameplay for week two on the Distinction Track is during ComicCon – I doubt my hotel wifi is up to LotRO standards! Is there an alternate date planned?

    1. Hi, Amanda. You can do the game play assignment any time during the seven days between when the quiz is posted and the due date. I’m sorry to overlap with ComicCon! It’s always great fun.


  7. Hello Jay

    I am a big fan of MOOC’s, Tolkein, games, literature, film and animation – so what a joy to find this course. I have re-blogged this post and will be making weekly updates to my blog as I follow the course.

    I hope to make the distinction track although I am away on holiday for some of the course. I’ve started playing and reading in order to get ahead.

    Looking forward to interacting with everyone during the course.

    Amaredel – Laurelin.

  8. Hi all! I am the leader of the Courserrim kinship on Landroval. I’ve noticed that most of the in-game assignments for the course are similar to last year’s course; what seems to be new is the Week 2 games planned for Saturday, July 26. I was curious when we might get more details as to the nature of these games? Our kinship is planning some social events for new students early in the course, and it would probably make sense for us to combine them with the games scheduled for week 2.

    All of us on Landroval are very excited about the new course session, and we look forward to meeting you all in the course forums as well as meeting some of you in-game!

  9. Do the videos have to be streamed in real time, or can they be watched any time on Monday? I have to work some on Mondays.

    1. Hi, Nathan. No, the videos can be watched any time, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. If you miss a week, you can catch up the following week without penalty if you are on the standard track. The only hard deadlines are for people in the distinction track, and they are when the peer assessments are due in the second, fourth, and sixth weeks of the course.

      If this seems a bit confusing, it will all be made clear when the course goes live next Monday.

  10. Distinction track is the online gaming track, right? I am currently level 17, soon to be level 18. I play on Maneldor; anyone else here play Maneldor?

    1. Yes, Distinction Track is the online gaming track. Meneldor has a large active community of students. Most of them are gathered in the Kinship Eagles of Thorondor, but there are students in other kinships as well. Introduce yourself in the coursera chat channel, and you’ll be welcomed to the network.


    2. Hey, Nathan, I just created a character on Meneldor. It’s a level 14 captain named Eosmeryn. Add me there if you like.

  11. Hi, a friend who saw this course online talked me into it. I’m looking forward to it. A question, I’m out of town as well starting the 26th, if I join the course kinship can I still use option 2 for the distinction track?


    1. You can complete Option 2 for the distinction track any day of the week in Week 2. Option 2 is designed so that people who are able to attend the Kinship Games that weekend will be able to use the activities on that day to complete the assignment, but it also provides other mechanisms for completing the assignment. This was crucial for people on servers other than the four main class servers.

      Hope that clarifies matters for you.


      1. We know the day is the 14th but what is the time? I see alot of posters are from servers other than Gladden. What server will you be on Jay?

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