What I’m studying online

At the age of 42, having studied engineering,  with experience in collaboration on the web and a lot of exposure to other ideas, I’m aware of many gaps in my knowledge. I’ve always read widely, but the new MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are a great opportunity for structured learning, so I’m diving in.

I’ve signed up for five courses – crazy when I’ve got other commitments? Absolutely – a little craziness is healthy, and so is a willingness to try things out. I’ve already quit one that wasn’t what I hoped for – the beauty of MOOCs is that you can try things out at no cost, and quit or defer if you need. My primary intention is to learn. In the process I’ll make conscious decisions to quit and defer when appropriate, and focus on the excellent courses that expand my mind.

I’m focusing on these two – watching the lectures is replacing my television and some of my social media time:

  • Social Psychology (Wesleyan University via Coursera).
    Purpose: Creating change in the world and in ourselves requires understanding people. 
    : Two weeks in, I’m familiar with most of the content, but it’s filling in detail and giving some insights. Readings can be lengthy – generally they’re recommended but not essential. It’s clearly presented, and I look forward to the coming weeks.
  • Think Again: How to Reason and Argue (Duke University via Coursera)
    Purpose: Rather than verbal fights, learn to debate constructively. I make a conscious effort to debate constructively, aiming to understand those with different views, and to help them to understand where I disagree and why. I expect that this course will help me be more effective in this.
    Impression: One week in, it’s quite easy, but is starting to build a structure for logic and reasoning. I’m optimistic.

I’ve also signed up for another three courses.

  • Learn to Program: The Fundamentals (University of Toronto via Coursera). I signed up today, a couple of weeks late. I know a little programming, but if it’s too demanding to catch up I’ll just retake it later.
    Purpose: We live in the 21st century – computer code shapes our lives and our careers. Understanding that to some degree is important even if you’re not planning a career in programming. I hack a bit of code and deal with coders regularly in my work with Appropedia and in advising on websites – understanding more of what’s going on will be useful.
    Impression: Stay tuned.
  • Writing for the Web (Open2Learn – from Open Learning Australia). I’ve been through a couple of weeks of lectures before quitting – too basic for my needs.
    Purpose: Useful for someone with little or no knowledge of blogs, managing websites or writing for the web.
    Impression: May not be useful for someone who has been writing for the web for some years and can manages a blog with some competence. I’ve quit this course and am looking for something to push my skills further.
  • User Experience for the Web (WebUX) (Open2Learn). This is a self-paced course – I’m not planning to start seriously just yet. It may also be covering ground I already know, in which case I’ll skip through it and then look for something more advanced.
    Purpose: This might help me (with my colleagues) to give Appropedia users a better experience, and help me give better advice to clients when I consult on wikis.
    Impression: Stay tuned.