MIT OpenCourseWare: Visualizing Cultures

The Visualizing Cultures course on MIT OpenCourseWare discusses Commodore Perry’s opening of Japan to trade through images and commentary. Students studied how images have been used as cultural norms and how graphics formed the basis of “visualizing culture”

Design and Aesthetics

In analyzing this course, we concluded that the course’s homepage was easy to navigate and contained working links to great resource material. We also found that the site was visually appealing in core areas.

Course Design/Assignments

The syllabus gave a detailed breakdown of grading but was very short, with few details, no standards or objectives, and very little contact information. There was limited information on assessments to help online learners. No lectures were available and the course, when in session, occurs one time a week in 3-hour sessions.
The course homepage, though easy to navigate, was visually unappealing and the huge advertisements drew the eye away from content. Once you clicked on the actual units for the class, the website became vibrant and interactive, but was hard to navigate.


The OpenCourseWare appears to be a study guide and there was no correlation between class sessions and the featured image of the sessions. The links for periodicals and web resources were outstanding; however, the book link was somewhat outdated. The books listed for the course were $30.00 and higher and were simply comprehensive guides to websites about history. The subject of the books alone was not an issue; but the books were over 10 years old, thus they may contain dated information, which can now be found online at no cost.

Community & Interaction

The site hosts a live study group for interactivity which was very well done. Other than that, there is no interactivity for students and teachers.


The weaknesses of this course revolve around it not being specifically designed for distance education. It appears to have been a face to face course that was translated to the internet no additional material added to make it a truly online course.

Our Grading Rubric:

Course evaluation by Jeff Francis, Jennifer Greene, & Reginald China. Summary written by Jennifer Greene.