Pop-up courses: where students learn history as it unfolds

'Students and faculty want to be engaging with what's going on in the world'

Temporary courses, or "pop-up" courses, allow students to study current events as they unfold, Kasia Kovacs reports for Inside Higher Ed.

Supporters of pop-up courses say they are especially relevant at times when major political events unfold—like, say, a presidential election outcome that surprises the world—because they give students a forum for thinking critically about the issues and trends behind the events.

"We know that the world does not move in academic time," says Mariko Silver, the president of Bennington College. "Students and faculty want to be engaging with what's going on in the world, and we want to create intellectual and academic spaces to discuss those issues in the classroom."

Bennington's pop-up courses, which include "The Semiotics of Trump" and "Election 2016 and What Comes After" among others, last anywhere from several days to several months. They don't span the whole semester, and are never repeated. 

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Bennington's pop-up courses are just as rigorous as full-length courses; students read academic material alongside news articles, compare situations to historical and foreign events, and may write final papers to receive a grade for the course if they choose.

The beauty of a pop-up course is that it doesn't necessarily need to fall within a student's major or discipline. Any student can participate.

Some schools like Stanford University offer pop-up courses purely for enrichment, not academic credit. Stanford's pop-ups go beyond current events, experimenting with topics in areas like science, theater, and design.

Bennington's pop-up courses are just as rigorous as full-length courses; students read academic material alongside news articles, compare situations to historical and foreign events, and may write final papers to receive a grade for the course if they choose.

The beauty of a pop-up course is that it doesn't necessarily need to fall within a student's major or discipline. Any student can participate.

Some schools like Stanford University offer pop-up courses purely for enrichment, not academic credit. Stanford's pop-ups go beyond current events, experimenting with topics in areas like science, theater, and design.

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