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QuickWire: Harvard U. Students Are Silenced During MOOC Filming

An English professor at Harvard University turned heads last month when she instructed students in her poetry class to refrain from asking questions during lectures so as not to disrupt recordings being made for the MOOC version of the course.

Elisa New, a professor of American literature, instituted the policy at the behest of technicians from HarvardX, the university’s online arm, according to The Harvard Crimson, which first reported the news. The video technicians reportedly told her they wanted to record a continuous lecture, with no back-and-forth with students.

The Crimson article prompted Harry R. Lewis, a computer-science professor and former Harvard College dean, to wonder whether Ms. New’s no-disruptions rule signaled a larger disruption of Harvard’s status quo.

But on reflection he decided it was fairly innocuous. “There are lots of lecture courses in which students do not ask questions anyway,” Mr. Lewis wrote on his blog. “This professor was making a point of having a much livelier conversation with the undergraduates for half an hour after the recorded portion of the lecture, which is a lot more than I or many of my colleagues do.”

Ms. New addressed the stir this week in an email to The Boston Globe. The policy was not permanent, she said, and applied to only a handful of class sessions. “Course design from semester to semester is always shaped by a variety of factors, whether or not the newest technologies are among those factors,” she wrote.

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