The Mythgard Institute is a new organization that is trying to promote studies and research related to the works of J. R. R. Tolkien (and related fields). While simultaneously opening a new door for such an interesting and rich body of work, the institute is diving headfirst into the crevasse of online academia in an attempt to usher in what hopefully will be a new era of higher education.
The Gandalf of this fine fellowship is Dr. Corey Olsen, an engaging academic from Washington College who has been podcasting his Tolkien and Middle English classes for a few years now, along with more in-depth conversations, lectures and Q&A sessions on related topics. Olsen announced the institute as part of a live broadcast on the Middle Earth Radio Network and posted a recording of the announcement in a two-part podcast on his Tolkien Professor site.
Beyond the prime directive of promoting Tolkien studies, the institute will offer masters-level courses that eventually will be applied toward a degree at the soon-to-exist (and be accredited) Signum University. They are targeting 2014 for the first graduating class — and I intend to be part of that.
I've been searching for several years now for a master's program that suits my interests. I've contemplated programs both at traditional institutions and online studies, but until now, I haven't found anything that excites me as much as the program the Mythgard Institute is developing. If niches are meant to be filled, then Mythgard Institute appears to fit nicely inside mine.
Um, or something like that....
I've committing already enrolled in the inaugural course — The Great Tales: Tolkien and the Epic — for master's credit. I just ordered all the required reading from Amazon, and everything should arrive by the time the class starts the week of Aug. 29.
I'm really excited. Even if I decide not to go beyond one course, I think this type of special interest opportunity is exactly the type of thing that has been missing from the internet. I won't say that traditional brick and mortar (or brick and Mordor...?) institutions are going the way of the dodo, but the Internet has long provided great opportunities for self-education that greatly lessen the value large universities provide. Developing a rigorous way to study special interest topics such as Tolkien's works and related topics is the next obvious evolutionary step.
And being deluged daily by the dire debacle of the debt ceiling, the prospect of saving a few bucks on an education that lets me read more about the things I already like is damn appealing.