Harry Potter obsessives, say hello to your new favorite website: HogwartsIsHere.com.
A fan-made site, HiH (as the site refers to itself) has turned Hogwarts into a series of Massive Open Online Courses, letting users "enroll" in the wizarding school. Nobody tell J.K. Rowling, though, because this site does the interactive Hogwarts experience better than the author-sanctioned Pottermore.
Hogwarts Is Here is essentially what it sounds like: an online university. It has all of the classic Potter classes, like potions and transfiguration. And the curriculum is impressively thorough. The textbooks you can purchase from Diagon Alley (after you set up your Gringotts bank account, of course) are nothing for a muggle to scoff at. The HiH version of A History of Magic "written" by Bathilda Bagshot has 17 chapters, covering topics like "Magic's Beginnings" and "Major Religions and Magic: Judaism". Most "chapters" are only a few paragraphs long, but according to the site's FAQ all content was created and written (and some are still being written) by "volunteer fans" – that is some serious HP dedication and knowledge.
So how do you take a real wizarding course? On Slate, Alex Heimbach wrote about her time as a HiH student: you sort yourself into a House, pick a dorm, and then sign up for classes, which are composed of nine lessons with assignments. That's right, there's classwork for this online Hogwarts that is actually graded (you can still explore the site without doing any work, but you'll forever be a first-year). Heimbach explains:
"One assignment for Transfiguration asked for 300 words exploring possible loopholes in one of the exceptions to Gamp’s Law —an expansion on a comment Hermione makes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows about the five things that cannot be created with magic. My essay, which discussed how you might circumvent the law against creating money by transforming less valuable items into more valuable ones, received a C, thus proving wrong the kids who teased me for being such a Hermione."
Hogwarts Is Here is quick to point out that it has no affiliation with J.K. Rowling or Warner Bros., and is an independently created fan site. It doesn't charge any money, but it is accepting donations. The fact that it uses HP material could pose a problem though, especially when it starts to get more attention, considering it's giving the licensed Pottermore a serious run for its money. Pottermore and HiH aren't exactly the same – the former is more of a role playing game, while HiH is a bare-bones MOOC. But if you're just looking to take a few Hogwarts classes and brush up on your charms, HiH does a lot with a little. Both give users an interactive Potter experience, but Pottermore's structure is much more guided and rigid (as well as fleshed out, but that's because it has the benefits of being, you know, official).
Pottermore came out with huge hype, but scored mixed reviews ("More like PotterSNORE" is our personal favorite). HiH is a welcome supplement. With HiH and a trip to Universal's expanding Potter theme park, we can all pretend our 11th birthdays didn't come and go without an owl dropping a Hogwarts letter on our doorstep.