The coronavirus pandemic has prompted a number of abnormal events at Penn including a shift to online classes for the remainder of the semester and a postponement of on-campus Commencement. Now, global superstar Shakira is taking an ancient philosophy course at Penn.
Shakira’s husband and Barcelona soccer player Gerard Piqué posted a video to his Instagram and Twitter accounts on March 25 of the 2020 Super Bowl halftime performer watching and taking notes on a Penn lecture with the caption “Studying philosophy! Smart ass! #StayHome.”
Philosophy professor and undergraduate chair Susan Sauvé Meyer said the lecture Shakira was watching in the video is from her online Coursera course titled Ancient Philosophy: Plato and His Predecessors.
Coursera is an online learning platform that offers course, degree, and certificate programs from nearly 200 universities and companies. Penn offers 59 courses through Coursera in a variety of fields such as business, law, design, and robotics. All courses are free to view but cost $49 to receive an official certificate of completion.
Shakira reposted her husband’s video on Twitter on March 27 and wrote, "Just a benign ancient philosophy course at @Penn to make the confinement productive. I have to be able to think about other things rather than Paw Patrol!!"
Meyer said that she did not know Shakira had enrolled in the class until a colleague sent her Piqué's Instagram post. She said she was surprised and overjoyed to see a celebrity watching her lecture and taking an interest in ancient philosophy.
“[Shakira taking the course] has been really cool,” Meyer said. “It was great to see she was taking the course but even greater to see she was taking notes and taking it seriously. It warms a teacher's heart.”
Meyer said she recognized the lecture in Piqué's Instagram video as the second of four lectures in her Ancient Philosophy: Plato and His Predecessors course. The course was first available on Coursera in 2016 and 65,969 students have taken it since, Meyer said.
Over the past week, Meyer said 1,939 new students have enrolled in the course, attributing the massive uptick from the usual 100 per week to people social distancing and quarantining to slow the spread of coronavirus. Meyer added that professors who teach a Coursera course receive weekly statistics on the number of students who have participated in the course but do not report the students' names.
Meyer added that she welcomes the excitement and unprecedented attention she and the course have gained since Shakira shared her experience on social media.
“This whole thing was really kind of a jolt. People, who don’t know much about philosophy or what I do, are more impressed with this than with anything else I’ve ever done," Meyer said with a laugh. "People say ‘Wow! You had Shakira take a course, you must be really impressive!’”