I want to digress today to talk about the joy of learning! I can’t say how satisfying it is to be able to take a course or two and to upgrade my skill sets. In a 2013 article in Forbes Monan Shah writes about taking a course on Coursera. I have to admit, I am hooked on Coursera! Through the myriad of courses I have taken, I have learned more about social media, psychology, philosophy, leadership, and the list goes on. I am currently enrolled in more than ten courses and five specializations! Every day I listen to fascinating lectures and write papers that help me gather my thoughts more succinctly.
Let me explain a little bit more about what a MOOC is. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. MOOCs started before computer technology was available as distance learning programs. The thirst for learning evolved and morphed into multimedia programs and then into online courses which is the state of the art today. They exploded throughout Europe and the United States and are a very popular alternative for people who want to explore learning, but are not able to manage the time or place to take courses in person.
One of the advantages of MOOCs is that they can be taken by anyone anytime who has access to a computer. They are often free or low cost. Coursera‘s courses charge only to those who want to have a certificate of learning but are free to anyone who wants to audit them. Other MOOCs that are popular are EdX, Udacity and FutureLearn. Most partner with major Universities throughout the world to provide courses and certifications.
I have known about these technologies for a long time. I took part in a massive exploration of online platforms for the European Union in the late 1990s or early 2000 (can’t remember exactly when). My job was to facilitate learners as they explored three or four platforms and decided which one they liked best. For me, to see this explosion into learning programs is incredible.
After facilitating the search and choosing a platform, I stepped away from online learning and into other pursuits in life. I worked to create my own business in conflict resolution consulting and intercultural training. I volunteered to develop programs in restorative justice for disadvantaged people. Then one day a few months ago my daughter in law told me about a free course she was taking online in chemistry. I immediately checked out Coursera and signed up for a course called Analyzing Global Trends For Business and Society offered by the University of Pennsylvania. The course has not been offered since I signed up in 2014.
Lessons I have learned taking courses: so what have I learned in my year and a half of study? In all of these courses, I have learned a few lessons that I would love to share.
- First, I strongly believe taking a MOOC is a worthwhile endeavor that helps anyone grow and develop. I highly recommend it.
- There have been a few courses that I did not complete and did not do well on. I learned to be more patient with myself, not to be too ambitious, and not to let one or two failures get in the way of all of the success I have had in other courses.
- I have learned to pace myself, add my own learning style to that of the course. For example, I learn better by reading the material. Some MOOCs don’t provide reading material. If no reading material is available, I find an article or book online that will help me learn. I think anyone can adapt the material to their own style, including experiential, in order to get the most out of a course.
- I have learned there is a community out there to share the learning! Through the courses I have taken, I have met a number of wonderful people of all ages who are also engaged in the learning.
- Finally, I have become a more skilled professional and better person that I was a year and a half ago. And that, after all, was the whole point!