Reading comics for a class may be too good to be true when it comes to your required courses, but in the world of massive open online courses (MOOCs), it’s just a way of reaching a larger audience. That’s why Ball State University‘s Christina Blanch will be using comic books as the medium for her new MOOC called: “Gender Through Comic Books”.

The course is free to take through the Canvas Network and will “explore questions of gender identity, stereotypes, and roles” by examining various comic books and how they approach the subject. There will be video lectures available on the topic, as well as interviews with established comic book writers. And while the course itself is free, participants will be expected to purchase required course materials.

A trip to a local comic shop to purchase course material? No one will believe you.

Ms. Blanch plans to use comic books as a way of breaking the tension that usually comes with the topic of gender. In a piece for Forbes, she spoke of using comics to teach gender in a class at Ball State. “The entire class was engaged, and I saw social cliques break down as students from various walks of life resonated to lessons learned from superheroes.”

Speaking with Wired’s Geek Mom, she said: “This class is about men and women and how we can learn about gender through its social construction, as politics, as a diffuse concept, and as a lived experience. Constructions of gender vary from culture to culture and change throughout time. In the class we will look at how gender is constructed and how the stereotypes of certain gender traits are perpetrated by the producers of cultural material.”

Both masculinity and femininity will be explored during the course. “Masculinity and femininity have traits associated with them that are not equal with a person’s sex. We will look at how women and men are represented in comic books and see how masculine or feminine they are,” Blanch said.

Gender Through Comic Books is a six-week course and will take place from April 2 to May 10.

Image Source: Joel Kramer