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What type of computing environment do I need for this course? 

The course was tested on recent versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. We’ve found some bugs in assessments that occur on Safari, and do not recommend using it.

While it is possible to access the course on tablet and other mobile devices, some parts of the course do not function, and it is recommended that you take the course on a laptop or desktop in order to have full functionality.

What is the format of the class?

The class consists of lecture videos from primary Professors Christopher Capozzola, John W. Dower and Ellen Sebring, with additional participation by Professors Shigeru Miyagawa, Genevieve Clutario, and Carla Sinopoli. Lectures are followed by assessments. 

What kind of assessments are there?

There are two categories of graded assessments in this course, and several types of ungraded assessments.

Graded assessments include comprehension questions and image-based analysis questions. Comprehension questions are either multiple-choice questions, which have one correct answer, or checkbox questions, which have two or more correct answers.

Image-based analyses will ask you to look closely at visual images and answer questions that follow. Some will require you to manipulate images directly, while others will ask you to answer multiple-choice questions. 

Ungraded assessments include polls, discussion boards, and word clouds. These assignments are open-ended, and ask you to submit a word or comment. While these are not required, these assignments allow you to engage with other students and will be moderated by a teaching fellow. 

How do I navigate the course?

Start with “Course.” Click to open a section. Click on the “Day.” Click across icons on the top to go through the material. Complete the work on each page. Each day’s work will take up to one hour. You can adjust video play speed in the video player.  You can turn the captions on and off, and download the transcripts and videos.

What do the blue clocks mean?

Everything that is graded has a blue clock icon next to it. If the item also has a deadline, that is listed right below.

 How do I see the right answers?

‘Check’ will submit your answer for points. If you’re stumped you can click ‘show answer’, but you will forfeit your points. If you click ‘show answer’ before clicking ‘check’, you will receive 0 points.

How does grading work?

To pass this course, you will need to attain a course average of at least 60 percent. Students who pass the course on the verified track will receive a verified certificate upon completion. These certificates will be issued a few days after the course closes. Please note that you will not receive a certificate for completing this course on the free audit track, but you are welcome to upgrade anytime before the verification upgrade deadline.

Assessments vary from simple multiple-choice questions, image-based analysis, and more open-ended assignments such as polls, word clouds, and discussion boards. Each module ends with a final quiz worth 8% of the final course score, and there is a final quiz worth 12% of the final score. There are also many more questions appearing after videos, etc. in the 25 days of the course. Not all of these questions in each day are graded, but in general each question counts towards your score for that day.  Each day counts for 1/25th of the remaining 64% of the course grade, so roughly 2.5% for each day's questions. 

Will the text of the lectures be available?

Yes, transcripts of the course will be made available alongside each video.

How much does it cost to take the course?

The course is free, and all necessary materials will be provided.

What is the content of the course?

This co-taught course looks at history and the skills and questions involved in reading history through images now accessible in digital formats. The course is based on the MIT Visualizing Cultures website devoted to image-driven research on Japan and China since the 19th century ( The course considers methodologies historians use to “visualize” the past.

What if I find the historical images and discussion of them challenging and/or in some way offensive?

It is important to recognize that by showing certain images or discussing certain topics, we do not endorse the views or opinions they present. Rather, we seek to understand the complexity of the past, even when the past is distasteful or offensive to us in the present. This course does not reflect the views of Harvard University, MIT, HarvardX, MITx, EdX or Visualizing Cultures.


Please also note that we expect all students to participate with respect for one another, especially in response to the sometimes challenging content that original historical sources, especially images, can present.

Are there related modules to this course?

Yes! You can sign up for other courses based on the Visualizing Cultures website, including “Visualizing Japan” (VJx), which is followed by “Visualizing Postwar Tokyo,” a two-part course by UTokyoX.