Shmoop Contemporary Lit: Don't bother, even if you are a literature master
Let me preface this by saying I am an avid reader and a published writer, and I'd already read much of the literature listed on the syllabus for the course, and even taken classes where a couple of the text were analyzed and interpreted.
Don't take this course.
I had previous experience with Shmoop. I took, liked, and passed the Modern European History course. I thought I knew what I was getting into with Contemporary Lit. I was very wrong.
There's nothing wrong with the material itself. If you were taking the course to explore literature and broaden your understanding, I'd say go for it.
If, however, your goal is to earn credit, don't bother.
The problem lies in the unit tests. The questions are both ambiguous and arbitrary. Quite literally, you will not find even hints of an answer for many of them, no matter how hard you study the source material or the study material provided by Shmoop. I'm going to give an example:
Here's the deal. You can search all day for a correct answer (I did) and you won't find one. Because there is no "correct" answer; not in the source text and not anywhere in the Shmoop website. Any of these answers could be correct; you could make a case for each (I did) and against each (I did) (yes, I was that angry/annoyed).
1. In Maus, how does Art Spiegelman's early comic Prisoner on the Hell Planet function as part of the Holocaust archive?
A) Prisoner on the Hell Planet is part of the Holocaust archive because it shows the ways in which the Holocaust affected the children of survivors as well.
B) Prisoner on the Hell Planet bears witness to Anja's Holocaust-related suicide, another aspect of the genocide perpetrated by Hitler.
C) Prisoner on the Hell Planet shows the ways in which survivors often blame their children for their misery after leaving the camps.
D) Prisoner on the Hell Planet corroborates Vladek's story of Anja's suicide, making it useful as evidence of the truth of his narrative.
80% of the unit test questions suffer from this ambiguity issue. These kinds of questions should be answered in essay format, not multiple choice, since saying one answer is definitely right where another is definitely wrong is just nonsense.
I've sent an email to Deb Tennen, Shmoop's Chief Content Officer. I'll also be writing to ACE, urging them to revoke credit-bearing status for this course until it is revised.
Completed: Business Law & Ethics (Saylor), Modern European History (Shmoop), Intermediate Algebra (ALEKS), Ethics (The Institutes), Principles of Management (Saylor), Cybersecurity for Everyone (TEEX), Principles of Marketing (Saylor), 2 NFA courses, Personal Finance (Study.com), Vietnam War (Study.com), Intro to Business (Saylor), Modernist Lit (Shmoop), Lit in the Media (Shmoop), Drugs in Lit (Shmoop), Holocaust Lit (Shmoop), Shakespeare's Plays (Shmoop), Bible as Lit (Shmoop), US History 2 (Shmoop), Western Lit (Shmoop), Women's Lit (Shmoop), Physical Geology (Study.com), Earth Science (Study.com), Brit Lit (Shmoop), Intro To Poetry (Shmoop), US History 1 (Shmoop) 72/120
Next up: Public Speaking (Study.com), American Government (Study.com), World History (TECEP), Intro to Western Political Thought (Saylor)