This past August, players for the Milwaukee Bucks initiated a strike in demand for criminal justice reform after police shot a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Chris Webber, former NBA star and current analyst for TNT, was supposed to call a game that night, but instead, he gave an emotional speech in support of the players’ activism. Webber called on professional athletes to take political action by forming a plan and leading the way for future generations. Six months later, Webber has taken his call a step further by teaching a course at Morehouse College called “Activism in Sports and Culture.” Webber’s course will be unlike traditional courses and available online through the college’s partnership with Coursera, to anyone from athletes to fans to activists for far less than a traditional course for credit and is free for those wanting to audit.
What Morehouse College has been able to leverage through it’s partnership with Coursera is the ability to adapt to changing social and political climates and reinvent its curriculum to fit the interests and needs of today’s online learners. Webber’s course on sports activism is the latest addition to Coursera’s partnership with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to offer courses that respond to the growing demand for new approaches to social inequity spurred by today’s civil rights movement.
Webber’s course aims to help students “have a better understanding of historical and contemporary protest moments, and be able to create and apply new ways of thinking about the activism within the world of sports in history and today.” Since professional athletes like Colin Kaepernick have leveraged their cultural influence to generate momentum for political change, there has been polarization over whether athletes should portray themselves as entertainers adhering to a code of political neutrality, or as humans who openly share their opinions and experiences.
It is important for today’s educational institutions to take heed of current movements like this and develop curriculum that will keep students excited and engaged. In bringing courses from colleges and universities to their online learning space, Coursera enables these institutions to innovate their course offerings to reach a broader diversity of online learners from beyond the campus. Last February, Coursera announced new social justice courses from university partners, covering topics such as systemic racism, policy change, and workplace diversity.
Making courses more accessible and affordable is a step forward in democratizing educational opportunity. It is key that courses in civil rights and social justice are within reach to underrepresented communities. By adopting innovative online learning strategies, colleges and universities can take that first step to promoting greater educational equity enabling online learners to take courses from top-quality institutions and expanding opportunities to people who might not otherwise have the chance.
Webber’s course “Activism in Sports and Culture” is free to audit and $49 to receive credit.