Monday, September 23, 2013

Ewoks and MOOCs

"Create a great day, because merely having one is too passive an experience."  That's the way Henry from Canada introduced himself in the introductions forum on the MOOC I've just started.  How true!

Have you heard of MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses?  I've just discovered them and I feel it's like being a nomad lost in a desert and arriving at an oasis.  There is basically all this free learning to be had through the MOOCs (check out www.coursera.org for a great selection), and I am jumping into that pool right at the deep end!
Matt had mentioned them to me a while ago, and I'd seen the acronym but not really known what they were.  Turns out that it's really like going to college or graduate school, but without the distractions of the keg parties, the freshman 15, the late-night trips to the computer center to type out an essay (ok, not to just type out the essay, but to create the essay while typing, amidst trips out in the below freezing weather to buy Mountain Dew from Foodstop).  This is all hypothetical, of course; I'm sure your university or college experience was nothing like that. I'm currently learning the Foundations of Business Strategy through a course offered by the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, and today I began a course on Organizational Analysis offered by Stanford.  There are people from ALL OVER enrolled on these things - name a place and I'll bet you that someone has introduced themselves on the online introduction board as being from there.  Cambodia, Calgary, Chennai...all represented.  In a video wrap-up by the business strategy professor in week 1, he mentioned that there were 87,000 people enrolled in the course.  87,000!  All no doubt digesting the content from not only an incredibly dispersed geographic perspective, but from cafes, sofas, offices, libraries.  This is learning in 2013.  Can you imagine 87,000 people all going from Baker Library to Foodstop for a caffeine break all at once?!  Main Street would buckle.
I'm incredibly excited about what I'm learning on these courses, and I think it's a great test to see how I've grown as a learner since I did finish college over 15 years ago; a chance to see what it would be like to be immersed again in academia - of course some of this content probably only scratches the surface of the topics but the various ways of testing - quizzes, writing papers, assessing peers' work - seem pretty thorough to me.  And the only way you have to pay for it is through the time you spend on it, because of that well-known equation, time = money.  I am sure there is a whole flipside to the positives of MOOCs, viewpoints that would come from people whose livelihoods were or are grounded in full-time higher education, the version which costs money (of which two, at least, are readers of this blog - my Dad - to whom maybe my Mom will read this, and my friend Diana).  Di and my Mom remain loyal readers of this blog and if you're here and surprised to see a post, you have them to thank!
In other news, I have decided that I would really like to watch Star Wars, all 6 episodes, from start to finish, which has nothing to do with learning.  Or maybe it does.  I'm sure all great films have an educational element to them.  I'll report later on my journey to learn more from both MOOCs and Ewoks. 

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