Twenty-five MOOCers (enrolled participants in a massive open online course) gathered on May 12th at Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University’s South La Union Campus (DMMMSU SLUC) in Agoo, La Union to join a “virtual” closing program for the six-week online course called The Art of Poetry offered through Boston University and the U.S. Embassy Manila.

A love for poetry and a desire to learn more about the art is what brought the twenty-five MOOCers together. The diverse group of teachers and university students from all over Region 1 met at DMMMSU SLUC three times throughout the six-week course for what are called MOOC “meet-ups.”

The first two meet-ups held on April 8th and April 25th were designed as a casual time to get to know fellow MOOC participants, share favorite poems, comment on course materials, and encourage each other to complete the coursework.

Most of the 25 participants joined as first-timers to the MOOC experience and online education in general. “What an amazing and unforgettable experience I had to be a part of the DMMMSU MOOC…this made me fall in love again to compose poems,” said first-timer, Aprellene B. Marquez, an elementary school teacher from Bauang La Union.

The final meet-up held on May 12th allowed the local MOOCers to virtually “meet” and ask questions to Boston University professor, U.S. Poet Laureate, and main course facilitator, Robert Pinsky as well as Filipino National Artist for Literature, Francisco Sionil Jose through means of a Google Hangout. U.S. Ambassador, Philip S. Goldberg also briefly joined to give his congratulations to all the MOOC participants.

Google Hangout is a communication platform similar to the popular Skype program which allows members to video chat as a group. The U.S. Embassy Manila initiated the six-way Google Hangout as a way to connect all 275 MOOCers from the seven different meet-up locations around the Philippines. Besides Agoo, there were also MOOCers connected from Davao, Bacolod, Tuguegarao City, and Aklan Province. Google Hangout allowed everyone, including Robert Pinsky in Boston, to join the scheduled program being held “live” at the U.S. Embassy Manila.

The program over Google Hangout lasted nearly three hours and featured a “Celebration of Learning” in which two representatives from each MOOC meet-up location shared original poetry based on assigned themes like women empowerment, education, peace and unity, climate change, etc.

Despite initial technology and connection struggles, two DMMMSU participants, Aprellene B. Marquez from Baccuit Elementary School, and Vincent R. Raras from ISPSC were able to share their original poems with the greater MOOC community.

Marquez read her poem entitled, “Courtship” and was followed by Raras who shared a poem about a father’s love for his father called, “Papi.” Both poems fit under the assigned theme of “Language and Culture.”

DMMMSU SLUC English Language Fellow, Kelly Keegan and E-teacher alumna, Prof. Melda Uychoco participated in and facilitated the three meet-ups held at DMMMSU SLUC.

“Trying out new technology like Google Hangouts can certainly be a challenge the first time around, but I’m happy we tried it here at DMMMSU. We all learned a lot over the six weeks, and, in the end, I’m very proud of everyone’s accomplishments,” said Keegan.

The Art of Poetry course by Boston University offered through edX began on March 29th and finished May 10th. The course featured weekly video discussions and selected poems based on focused themes: Difficulty and Pleasure; Freedom and Meaning; Form as a Quality; Teasing, Flirting, and Courting; Kidding and Tribute; and What is “Great.” Participants were required to watch videos, complete readings, answer content questions, and submit a 10-poem personal anthology collection with annotations in order to successfully pass the course.

Those who completed the course commented that their sacrifice of time and diligence in completing the coursework was well worth it. “The MOOC experience has made us pace-setters providing our co-participants renewed tempo in learning and enjoying poetry while riding on the shoulders of a ‘giant’ mentor (Pinsky). It was one great personal as well as professional enrichment which gave us the opportunity to wade in uncharted world of MOOCs,” commented Professor Uychoco.

DMMMSU SLUC will host its own graduation ceremony in the coming weeks wherein the local MOOCers will receive their official signed certificates from Boston University and the U.S. Embassy Manila.