This course, built for Concordia University, studies the fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien alongside the works of Old English literature that inspired him, considering the grammar of Old English.


Old English can be a tough sell in today’s fast-paced world, especially for university students who have to follow several courses simultaneously. For this project, we had to build on the professor’s experience in offering this course in class and create an engaging environment that would appeal to students.


The goal of this course was to give learners the tools they need to conduct their translations, analyze and interpret data, and, most importantly, understand the way Old English grammar was formed and how it influenced today’s English language.

As professor Stephen Yeager, the course content developer, explains, the online course’s most significant benefit is that it allows students to translate Old English texts cooperatively. “Small groups meet online and create translations together, which they then compare to the translations of their classmates. That’s when the real learning happens.”

Students also have access to pronunciation advice through a pre-recorded segment, allowing them to improve their mastery of the language.

Gamification elements have been inserted throughout the course to keep in line with Tolkien’s whimsical universe, allowing students to engage with the learning material at another level.

Every lesson has several activities that allow students to earn badges that will unlock the chapters of Smaug’s story (a dragon and the main antagonist in J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit). While badges give students access to the main storyline, the accompanying bonus flames provide them with access to extra plot details.

Badges: Students earn a badge by successfully completing the activity associated with that badge. Earning four badges unlocks the main level of the story chapter. Badges are associated with their final grade.

Flames: Students earn a bonus flame by taking on extra challenges, such as beating the clock. Four Flames unlock a different level of the story chapter. Flames are not associated with their final grade.