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Frequently Asked Questions

Alumni & Friends Community Book Discussion presented through Holy Cross Online Learning

What is Holy Cross Online Learning?
Holy Cross Online Learning is a new venture creating opportunities for enhanced engagement with off-campus communities and serving as a venue for faculty to continue to develop innovative instructional methods, which also benefits our students on campus.

Can anyone register for this book discussion?wui
The Alumni & Friends Book Discussion is open to all Holy Cross alumni, parents and friends.

Is there a cost to register?
There is no cost to register or participate. This is a free noncredit course opportunity for Holy Cross alumni, parents and friends.  

Do I need a special kind of computer/web browser to participate in this course?
The following are the system requirements from the EdX website:

  • Most current browsers will work with For best performance we recommend current versions of Chrome or Firefox.
  • Most courses can be taken on any desktop or laptop computer that has an internet connection and can run an up to date browser. Mobile devices like smartphones, tablets or iPads, can also be used to access our courses, though some more advanced problem types and content features may not function properly.

How do I sign up?
Register online »

Please note: If you have never taken a Holy Cross Online course before, fill out the registration form and click the button labeled “Create My Holy Cross Online Learning Account” to create your HC Online account and be enrolled in the discussion.

I participated in The Irish American Experience online course this past fall.  Do I need to register again with the online web platform?

The email address and password combination that you already created and used for The Irish American Experience will allow you to sign into the online course platform.  However, you must still enroll in this particular book discussion.  To do so, while on the registration page, click the button at the top labeled “Already Registered? - Log In.”  Then, sign in with the credentials you had previously created this fall and click the button labeled “Log into My Holy Cross Online Learning Account + Access My Courses” to be enrolled in this spring discussion.

Is there a deadline to sign up?
We recommend participants register before March 12 to give you ample time to read the book, to become familiar with the edX platform and to experience the pre-discussion instructions/content.

What book are we discussing?
We will discuss the critically-acclaimed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In this New York Times bestseller, author Rebecca Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor tobacco farmer, whose cells were taken without her knowledge in 1951. Known by scientists as “HeLa” cells, they became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown.

Will I receive a copy of the book?
Holy Cross is not providing copies of the book. The book can be purchased at all major booksellers and can be borrowed from many public libraries.  Through collaboration with Holy Cross Libraries, we have created a resource webpage with more information about the book and its author, as well as some compelling videos too.

When does the book discussion begin?
The online, self-paced discussion begins the week of March 12 and will run for five weeks through April 15.

How is the discussion structured?
Over the course of five weeks, Holy Cross faculty members will lead us in an online discussion that highlights the historic, moral and scientific implications of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and its overarching meaning for us today. For detailed information regarding the discussion structure, please review the discussion schedule (PDF).

How much of a time commitment will this discussion entail?
We anticipate students spending no more than one to two hours per week, all self-paced. Each week contains a 20-30 minute faculty video, along with optional discussion board activities and suggested readings.

I will be on vacation/unavailable during part of the discussion - will I be able to catch up?
While discussion content is released according to the schedule, each week’s material remains available after its release for the duration of the course. Students are always welcome to access prior weeks’ content.

What if I have discussion-related questions?  Will the faculty members answer them?
Yes!  Our faculty participants with monitor all online discussion board questions/comments throughout the five-week program.

What if I have technology-related questions?  Who will answer them?
Please email us at and a member of our support team will answer your question(s) within one business day.

Will content be available ahead of time?  Can I get ahead?
While discussion content is released according to the schedule, each week’s material remains available after its release for the duration of the course. Students are always welcome to access prior weeks’ materials.

Will I get academic credit for participating in this online discussion?
The Alumni & Friends Book Discussion is a noncredit course. Participants will not receive a grade at the end of the discussion.