Writers’ education comes from many sources, including university writing courses, novel writing workshops, critique groups, and plenty of practice. Some courses can be pricey, so saving a few dollars while benefiting from a university level writing class is appealing. MIT offered a course called The Creative Spark, in Fall 2004 and taught by Professor Karen Boiko, which is now online.
The Creative Spark Course Description
According to the course website, the class involves exploring what creativity is and how the creative process works. Discussions also center on what is valued as creative, using music, art, film, and literature to define it. Students will keep journals of their observations.
MIT Writing Course Syllabus
The syllabus includes essays, journal writing, and reading. There is no assigned textbook for this course, instead, a reading list is provided with links to purchase the books. For each book purchased, OpenCourseWare receives up to 10% of the price. This goes toward supporting the technology infrastructure that allows MIT to provide these free writing courses online.
There are three essays in the class assignments. Since the course was already offered, this is an audit only option, so any essays a student writes now will not be turned in or graded. They will simply serve as exercises in creativity and writing. It may be helpful to find a partner to take the course with, and then critique each other’s essays.
How the Free Online Writing Course Works
The website provides the materials, handouts, and assignments that went along with this course. The assignments and handouts are provided on the website in PDF format. A student may decide to do the assignments or not.
An extensive reading list is provided, and a student may read as much or as little as is preferred. The reading choices include articles by Arthur Koestler, Malcolm Gladwell, Carl Jung, and Kennedy Fraser, among other notable authors and scientists. Some of the readings are available online, others must be purchased.
Students will get out of this course benefits equal to the amount of effort invested. It’s possible to glean a great deal of information from the readings and journaling alone.
In addition to the course, The Creative Spark, there are several other courses in both fiction and non-fiction writing offered at the MIT Writing and Humanistic Studies department website. For other free online university courses, Open University offers several that include forums with other students and some with instructor feedback. These free online writing courses are proof that quality doesn’t have to be expensive.
Boiko, Karen, 21W.730-2 The Creative Spark, Fall 2004. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), http://ocw.mit.edu (Accessed 04 Oct, 2009). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA