An online course offered at the University of Alberta has gotten a major boost thanks to some star power on social media.
Dan Levy, a Canadian actor and writer best known for the smash hit Schitt’s Creek, decided to enroll in the U of A’s Indigenous Canada Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), but then took another step and asked his millions of social media followers to join in.
“It’s a 12-lesson, massive open online course that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues from an Indigenous perspective,” Levy said in a video he posted to Instagram and Twitter Tuesday. “And I thought, if I am going to sign up and learn, maybe some other people would want to join me, and we could do this as a group.”
Levy said he is working with the professors who run the course to host a Q and A each week on his social media accounts.
“We could better understand and delve deeper into the curriculum,” Levy said. “Because if you’re anything like me, I was not a good student, I need kind of group support, and I thought this would be a really great way of doing that.”
The Indigenous Canada course is free to the public, but can also be taken for a fee as part of a university degree. A third option, with a smaller fee, gives the participant a certificate.
Dr. Tracy Bear, an assistant professor at the U of A’s Native Studies faculty, helped design the course along with Dr.Paul Gareau, an assistant prof in the same faculty.
Bear said she couldn’t believe it when Levy reached out.
“We were all pretty thrilled to be contacted.
“It’s such a boost to our faculty. We’re pretty excited about it,” Bear said.
She said that the course was first offered in 2017 — but has seen some boost to enrollment through COVID-19. She also believes the Black Lives Matter movement has increased interest.
“We are a society in the midst of great change right now,” Bear said. “And I feel this is our chance to sit with some… uncomfortable truths, and move on together.”
Bear said as a Native Studies professor, she is often asked how people can better themselves when it comes to understanding Canada’s history with Indigenous people — she believes the course is a simple step to do that.
“That’s informing yourself,” she said. “The course is super accessible, it’s fun. We talk about all across Canada, and it’s a new history that people might not know of.
“I think everyone would benefit by taking it.”
Levy said Tuesday that he also hoped his followers would use the course to learn a different history that is less talked about.
“If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to actively re-learn history — history that wasn’t taught to us in school — to better understand and contextualize our lives and how we can better support and be of service to each other,” he said.
People can sign up for the course online.
Bear said Tuesday she didn’t have exact numbers on how many people had signed up after Levy sent out the call, but that she expects a massive rise in enrollment.
Levy will run the live streams, which will include Bear and other instructors, each Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (1 p.m MT), through his Twitter and Instagram accounts.