Review: Hogwarts Is Here | Hogwarts Online

I discovered Harry Potter when I was ten years old whilst perusing my elementary school’s media center for something that I hadn’t yet read. I was such an avid reader that the librarian would bring bags of books from her teenage daughter’s stash for me to devour once I ran out of things at my level to read within the school’s available offerings – some of which I recently realized I still have today!

The magical world of Harry Potter, and the immensely awe-inspiring Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was the best fictional world I had ever stumbled into. The Boy Who Lived quickly captured my heart, as did the brave companions making up the rest of the holy triumvirate. With each new character and spell and Muggle-exclusionary rule, I fell deeper in love.

I felt my soul soar through the skies with Hippogriffs and I felt my guts wrench at “Always.”

Years later, “All was well” became a mantra that I repeated through difficult times to remind myself that “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

Harry and his struggles and his friends and his battles helped me with and through my own, and when the series ended with the final film’s credits rolling as I sobbed loudly to myself in the quickly emptying movie theater (for the third time), I had accepted that, barring any future spin-offs, my life at Hogwarts had truly come to a close.

At least, until a couple of weeks ago!

Thanks to Hogwarts Is Here volunteer creators, I recently received my online Hogwarts Acceptance Letter via email and enrolled into the prestigious wizarding school as an eager First Year student named Lola Ollivander – with a backstory I made up that is something like a cross between a Creative Writing assignment prompt run amok and a really in depth online RP character bio.

Each student is required to complete 7 courses to advanced to their Second Year of studies. Each course consists of 9 Lessons and accompanying assignments ranging from quizzes on course material to assignments and research essays from the online textbooks created specifically by volunteers using the actual Harry Potter lore using the books, the films, Pottermore.com and interviews with JK Rowling herself to create in depth coursework that a hypothetical Hogwarts student would actually need to complete while attending the school.

Course Currently Available:

Astronomy (ASTR-101)

Charms (CHRM-101)

Defense Against the Dark Arts (DADA-101)

Herbology (HERB-101)

History of Magic (HOM-101)

Potions (PTNS-101)

Transfiguration (TNFG-101)

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A social component exists on the site as well, wherein students and professors can communicate with one another using a primary “Feed” for friends as well as an implemented direct messaging system. Each student is able to choose a Hogwarts House to represent, and join a Dorm based off of that house choice. I’m a Ravenclaw in Dorm #239, and I can chat with other wizards and witches in training in the same Dorm.

 

The coursework is actually more challenging than I believe a lot of people were expected, and many of my own friends have even stopped keeping up with the website after realizing how much time it would take to keep up with. But although the workload may be tough for some First Years, because of its infancy, Professors have allowed assignments to be completed at student’s leisure rather than by a specific date or schedule. And, for those who don’t have Ravenclaw blood singing about their thirst for learning in their veins, you can still access the full site even without participating in the discussions or essays.

I recently wrote a short story assignment about discovering my first wand from the perspective of a Hogwarts student. I was asked to use details using knowledge I’ve gained from this lesson on wand lore featuring cores, wood types and flexibility – knowledge that had no use to me and serves no purpose outside of this course. My story ended up being 700 words and took the better part of an hour I could have otherwise spent refreshing Facebook, and it’ll never win a Pulitzer or make me money, but it was fun! I got to spend some time thinking outside the box, creatively, trying to use what I know about storytelling and narrating to create a short story that put the Professor in my First Year student shoes as I discovered my wand — or rather, as it discovered me!

And afterward, I was able to sail through the actual prompt I had in my Creative Writing  college class!

Is the new Hogwarts Online for every single fan out there? Probably not! I think it would mostly appeal to those hardcore fantasy HP fans who genuinely love learning, and possibly have a passion for creative writing. The essay prompts require a lot of critical thinking, so even if the knowledge isn’t applicable to the rest of your normal Muggle life, it can get the brain juices flowing enough to possibly spurn some productivity or creativity in your everyday life. Fans of online role playing, NaNoWriMo and other similar extracurricular writing activities who share a passion for the Harry potter world may also find this really fun!

Are you any less of a fan if you aren’t as into writing essays as you are interested in just reading the books and absorbing the magic? Not at all! While there’s a sense of satisfaction I get from receiving a good grade (however fictional that grade may be) that can compare to nothing else ever,  I do get that not all fans – or even all self-identifying Ravenclaws – would want to add fake schooling onto lives that are undoubtedly already busy and hectic from normal stuff.

But if you’re a huge fan, you love learning for the sake of learning, you’re interested in practicing your creative writing skills or you just have some free time and are more into potion brewing than any normal MOOC-like coursework, give it a try!

For the first time ever, your acceptance letter is only a few clicks away! 🙂

*Note: All photos are from one of my trips to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park, not from the online website!

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