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HOFBERG: Hogwarts online

Do you have access to Wi-Fi and dreams of becoming a real-life witch or wizard? Well, now that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is offering online courses, you can. Although I wish I were kidding, I’m not.

It used to be that if you wanted to get to Hogwarts, you would need to make a lengthy commute through your imagination via high-speed train that departed from the make-believe Platform 9 ¾. These days, however, you don’t need to travel farther than you own living room to experience the magical curriculum of the imaginary institution, as Harry Potter super fans have launched the website “Hogwarts is Here.” This website is fully equipped with a full catalogue of “Ministry-approved” online classes for the aspiring wizards and witches.

Actually, the online version of Hogwarts might be the easiest school in the world to get accepted to. If you’re worried that your GPA, GRE scores and letters of recommendation aren’t good enough to earn you an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, don’t be. An identifiable pulse is pretty much all you need to get in. Take three minutes to fill out a few required fields with basic information like your name and e-mail address and you can receive your very own Hogwarts acceptance letter! Don’t get too excited, though — it’s not delivered by an owl. Really, it’s just a fancy e-mail confirmation notifying you that you’ve been officially registered on the site.

After opening a bank account with an online Gringotts and buying textbooks at a virtual Flourish & Botts, students have to be sorted into houses. Unfortunately, there are no Sorting Hats in cyberspace so you have to pick a house for yourself. Having trouble deciding if you belong in Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw? Don’t worry. There’s an official “Which Hogwarts House Do You Belong In?” BuzzFeed quiz that can help you figure it out.

But don’t be tricked — no pun intended — into thinking that the online Hogwarts experience is a fun game that’s as easy as the enrollment process. When classes start, students are expected to do some serious work. Hogwarts students sign up to take up to seven classes at one time like Charms, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, Herbology, History of Magic and Transfiguration. For each nine-week course, students are expected to study the material and complete actual homework assignments and take quizzes and tests that are graded by fully accredited, volunteer Hogwarts professors. Not overwhelmed by the workload? Great. Apply to write for Hogwarts’ very own student newspaper, the Daily Owl.

And oh yeah, I forgot to mention, thanks to the “Wizard-Muggle Integration Movement” an education at the Hogwarts online school is all offered completely free of charge. Tempted to drop your own legitimate college textbooks and enroll in the new magic school? God, I hope not.

It’s only been about a week and a half since the launch of Hogwarts is Here and more than 155,000 people have already enrolled. And honestly, I don’t get it. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been a fan of the Harry Potter series myself, but there has got to be a more productive way to be spending your time than writing a 300-word essay about the loopholes in Gram’s Law for Defense Against the Dark Arts Class. I don’t care how free it is. I might only be more interested in enrolling if Hogwarts Online was offering courses on how to make FAFSA student loans, love handles and shingles disappear with the flick of a wand or the casting of a spell.

What’s scarier than the size of the online student body, which grows bigger every day, is how legitimate the online Hogwarts website looks. It’s frightening how much it looks like an actual technical college webpage, beckoning potential students with images of engaging students and links to FAQs about enrollment, academics and student life. I wonder how many of the super fans, who are already having a difficult enough time making the distinction between reality and fantasy, see the Hogwarts online school as a legitimate educational pursuit. I’m not so sure I want to know the answer.

For me, it conjures up images of clueless bookworms having to answer to potential employers who sit across from them at a large desk, “So let me get this straight. You have a degree in poisons from Hogwarts Online?” I promise, listing Hogwarts under the “Education” section on your résumé is a good way to get yourself fired before you’re even hired.

Call me crazy, but I’m going to go ahead and continue my studies as a journalism student at Boston University for now. If I’m going to spend three hours reading a virtual textbook, you better believe it’s going to be for a class that I can actually list on my résumé.

Kate Hofberg is a graduate student in the College of Communication. She can be reached atkwhofberg@gmail.com

 

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