Open online course explores personality in the “Third Space”

Geneseo launched its first massive open online course on Jan. 27, titled “Identity in the Third Space.” Over the span of four weeks, this class will examine personal, ethical and legal concerns about Internet identity.

According to Provost and professor of English Carol Long, this will not be an ordinary class. 

“There are no grades,” Long said. “We wanted it to be offered in a low-risk environment.” 

According to Long, this class is an experimental MOOC that started off as an idea among a few faculty members. 

Visiting lecturer of anthropology Denice Szafran is one of several professors teaching this course, which she said asks the question, “Do you change when you go online?”

According to Szafran, this MOOC is a transformational learning opportunity because it is an innovative way to get information to those who are motivated to learn about the topic of third space personality. “For some people, the ‘third space’ is a very real space,” Szafran said. 

There are currently over 100 students registered and the class will be organized in an open conversation format, where discussion among students and professors is encouraged. 

“This class started largely as a way for students to learn technical information without having to go to class,” Long said. 

According to Szafran, many of the students participating in the MOOC are alumni and faculty. The course was created as a way for the alumni to stay involved in the Geneseo community. “[The MOOC] brings the alumni back in touch with the university and puts to use tools that normal classrooms don’t have at their disposal,” Szafran said.

According to associate professor of computer science Doug Baldwin – who will also help teach the MOOC – word of this new program spread mainly through email to alumni mailing lists. 

“One thing that sets this MOOC apart from others is that people registered on initial interest,” Baldwin said.

According to Baldwin, the MOOC is cost-free for participants and offers “free access to the intellectual life of Geneseo” for alumni. 

Because this MOOC is discussion oriented, professors can post videos or links to readings to stimulate more ideas and in-depth conversation about the topic on the website, which is structured like a blog. 

The success of the MOOC will be measured by student feedback presently registered in the course. According to Long, this experimental MOOC will help the Geneseo community determine whether it is effective to use certain tools in the education process and to determine how best to use the “digital learning space” to “enhance the education environment at Geneseo.”

For an overview of the course, students can access the MOOC by visiting