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Syracuse University professor starts 'Doctor Who' course (USA Today)

Originally published by USA Today. Written by Kristen Eskow.

A class on the BBC television series Doctor Whois coming to Syracuse University this spring semester, and will also be open online (for free!) to any members of the public interested in the course.

The class will be taught by Anthony Rotolo, a professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where he also serves as the director of the online master in communications program.

According to the course’s website, “This free, open course offers students an incredible adventure through space and time as we explore the history, evolution and cultural impact of the long-running BBC program, Doctor Who.”

After creating a Star Trek course in 2010, Rotolo says he brainstormed other ideas for a comparable course to teach.

“Doctor Who has a very long legacy as one of the longest-running TV programs of all time,” Rotolo says. “It gives us the ability to look at many different periods of post-war history and much of the mass media era.”

Another special feature of the course is the opportunity to examine the British media culture, which Rotolo says is usually “not something we talk about in class.”

Rotolo says the course will also reflect on the way media has evolved since Doctor Who premiered about 50 years ago — from being able to watch an episode only once on television to buying episodes of the series on VHS or streaming them online.

“This is a series that has had several periods of fandom,” he says. “We’re time-traveling like ‘the Doctor’ to these different periods and have knowledge of what it was like during that time.”

Rotolo, who began to develop the course a year ago, says the class will mainly consist of live screenings and social media interaction during the airings of the episodes. As the professor, Rotolo says he will guide the conversation on social media and have students use a consistent hashtag to share their thoughts and observations.

“It makes it a lot of fun,” he says. Before social media, “we would have had to watch something in silence and talk about it afterwards, but now there’s a real-time way of talking about it.”

Students will also be assigned contextual readings on historical topics and science fiction issues, Rotolo says.

“The goal of a class like this is always to look at the historical and cultural significance, reapply it to now and allow the content to raise questions of things going on in our own time,” he explains.

The course was open to 200 students at Syracuse University in all levels and majors to take in-person, which quickly filled on the first day of course registration at SU, Rotolo says.

However, promising for “a truly global experience,” the class is free and open to any member of the public online by simply signing up.

Juan Rangel, a junior studying television, radio and film at Syracuse University, says he hoped to take the course in-person but had to resort to the online option due to a conflict with another class.

As a newer fan to the show, he says he wants to learn more about the program’s history and the older episodes previous generations have seen.

“I’m a huge Doctor Who fan,” Rangel says. “It’s one of the few classes that’s completely catered to one thing and it’s your interest – nothing can go wrong with this class.”

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