Stepping Into The MOOC World

Stepping Into The MOOC World

It started like any other sunday morning.  I was sitting at the breakfast bar, with my laptop and coffee in front of me, leisurely reading articles and following links over hills and down dales, roaming the web super highway.

MOOC
Photo credit: Cikgu Brian

I went from browsing recipes to trying to decipher an article about SEO coding.  From there, I innocently followed a link to the 5 best online web coding classes.  Then I wandered to another class for something, which lead to a free class for something else, and another class...

A half an hour later, I was staring at a confirmation email, grinning from ear-to-ear and feeling equal parts bemused and incredibly pleased with myself.

My husband's entrance into our kitchen for a fresh cup of coffee, seemed particularly well timed.  I had to share my news.

“You’ll never guess what I just did.” I said.

Focused on his coffee, his back to me and across the room, he couldn’t see my huge grin.

I threw out a bit more bait.  “I signed up for an on line class.”

“Journalism?”  he inquired. He flashed a smile in my general direction and went back to pouring cream into his coffee.  Journalism was a logical guess.  I’d toyed with taking journalism classes for years. But never did.

“Nope.”  I said, letting it hang there a while.

“I’m taking a class on Sustainable Development.”

I got a surprised look that turned into a grin, before his head disappeared into the refrigerator.   Finding a suitable snack to go with his coffee was clearly a priority.  Environment and sustainability were hobby horses I rode regularly, so my choice was unexpected but not altogether surprising.

“Where at?” he asked.

“Columbia”

Head out of the refrigerator, he was looking at me now and paying attention to my grin.  “Columbia University?”

“Yes.  And the professor is none other than ... Dr. Jeffrey Sachs.”

My husband’s wide-eyed, open mouth look was all I could ask for.  We both were fans of Dr. Sachs and tried to catch his occasional appearance on Morning Joe or CNN whenever possible.  Hubby had read several of Sachs’ books and had another waiting to be read on his nightstand.

“I just got my confirmation email.”

Snack forgotten my husband joined me at the breakfast bar peering over my shoulder trying to look at the email.  I could see a “how” forming on his lips.

“It’s a global on line class.”  I said  “And its free --”

A light bulb seemed to come on.  It was his turn to surprise me.

“It’s a muk.” he said.

“A what?”

“M-O-O-C!  Massive Open Online Course.”

I still didn’t know what he was talking about.  I had never heard of a MOOC!  How had I joined something I didn’t even know existed.  And why didn’t I know -- my husband was a university professor .

And he was, now, in full professor mode.

“A MOOC is a multimedia distance learning course set up on the web to be free and with open access for an unlimited number of people.  MOOCs have been around for a few years.  A lot of big name universities have been getting into them in a big way.

The idea is that literally thousands, even tens of thousands of people can take a university level class without having to meet any kind of financial or grade requirements.  All anyone needs is web access, the initiative to sign up, and the commitment to invest their own time and effort.”

Now, after impulsive me had already signed up for a class, skeptical me was asking,  “That sounds wonderful, but what do all these universities get out of offering MOOCs?”

“Higher education is a competitive world.  They extend their educational boundaries and they reach potential new students for traditional classes.”

“So they just offer introductory (teaser) classes?”

“No, they offer all kinds of things from song writing and art classes to computer programing and advanced chemistry and everything in between.”

Lecture over, he wander off his coffee and banana bread firmly in hand.

Deep in thought, I stared at that confirmation email on my laptop.

For a rabid non-joiner, whose last college class was 25+ years ago, I should have been intimidated by the 5-6 hours a week need for my new MOOC class, but I was energized and ready to start!  Exploring this brave new educational world seemed a worthy investment of my time and effort.

So, of course, I went back on line and joined another MOOC!

***

For list of MOOCs: Top 10 Sites for Free Education With Elite Universities

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